Phylloxera and their Threat to Vineyards Worldwide

Phylloxera and their Threat to Vineyards Worldwide

Just like regular farmers in the midlands, vineyards have to deal with pests as well.  One pest that devastated vineyards near the end of the 1800’s was phylloxera.  Phylloxera are known as small insects that are nearly microscopic and pale yellow in color.  They are related to aphids, and feed off of grapevines, destroying both the roots and the leaves.  When this happens, the roots become deformed, fungus can grow, and the nutrient and water supply to the grapevine is cut off, thus deadening the plant.

Vineyards all across Europewere devastated by phylloxera in the late 19th century, due to the emigration of the louse from North America.  Plants in North America already had a slight resistance to these insects, while European plants did not.  Entire European vineyards were wiped out due to the spread of phylloxera and the inability to control them.  Two thirds of European vineyards were destroyed due to this pest in the 1870’s.

The only way to effectively combat this pest was to create a resistant plant.  Commercial vineyards began to graft rootstocks to make a hybrid of plant that would still develop the same grapes for wine but had a higher tolerance to phylloxera.  Vineyards have also found that by growing grapes in areas of high wind, sand, and plentiful sun help deter phylloxera and assists in avoiding a reoccurring “phylloxera plague.”

There are few wines that survived phylloxera in the late 1800s, and these wines and Champagnes bring in top dollar.  A few European vineyards were unscathed by the pests, and brought forth rare Pinot Noirs,Champagnes, and Port from this particularly difficult time for vineyards throughout the entire continent.  Nacional is a vintage port that survived this plague, and Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Francaises is a rare and very expensive Champagne that also narrowly escaped the doom of the phylloxera pest.

Today, vineyard owners all over the world battle the threat of phylloxera.  Every major grape producing region deals with this pest, and vineyards that have already become infested are unable to completely eradicate them.  Female phylloxera can lay some 400 eggs during their lifetime, which causes fast reproduction of this pest that is difficult to control.  Vineyards can try to limit the infestation of their crops with restricted access to the area and sanitation methods to reduce their risk.


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