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What Is Phylloxera, Which Has Destroyed Countless Vineyards Throughout the World?
Phylloxera is a family of sap-sucking aphids that includes the vine-killing root aphid. Daktulosphaira vitifoliae which is simply referred to as phylloxera in viticulture. (It is still often classified by its old scientific names Phylloxera vastatrix obsession Phylloxera vitifoliae.) More specifically, it attacks the rootstock to block the flow of water and nutrients to the vine.
Phylloxera is native to North America. It is believed to have been introduced to Europe and the wine regions of the Old World in the late 1860s to supplement the needs of growing vineyards and wineries, but it spawned a worldwide epidemic, mercilessly destroying vineyards from France to Australia. In France alone, more than 2.5 million hectares (6 million acres) of grapes were uprooted. This was the ravages of powdery mildew, also known as foliar disease Oidium caused Uncinula necator mushroom, in the 1850s. (The fungus spreads to the grape clusters and causes secondary rot and off-odors known as musty, earthy, and musty.)
North American vines, such as Vitis labruscaspared as they developed natural resistance to phylloxera, Vitis vinifera Grapes used throughout Europe to make world-class wines like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon – no. Interestingly, it belongs to Chile vinifera– the planted vines were spared; It is not known why, but it is suspected that the louse could not cross the Andes from the east because it could not survive the high altitudes and could not cross the Pacific Ocean from the west.
The cause of the problem was not immediately obvious and was often misdiagnosed. A lot of research was done to identify the root causes (okay, pun intended), but it took a very long time. Meanwhile, the louse spread across continents and continued to wreak havoc at a dizzying rate.
Many proposed remedies have failed and failed miserably. There was a glimmer of hope when Baron Paul Thénard, son of the French chemist Baron Louis-Jacques Thénard (1777-1857) of hydrogen peroxide fame, applied carbon disulfide, a strong, toxic and foul-smelling insecticide, to the affected vineyards. The chemical was quite effective against phylloxera, but it had two shortcomings in addition to being a very expensive treatment, so it is not suitable for a long-term solution. First, carbon disulfide is very volatile, so it had to be used in large doses. Second, it had to be applied annually, which weakened the vines, and if used for a long time, completely destroyed the vines.
Other chemical warfare, such as potassium xanthate and potassium sulfocarbonate, were proposed to combat the initial deficiencies of carbon disulfide, but these treatments were simply too expensive. An attempt was also made to use a very dilute solution of Sarin, an organophosphorus compound chemically known as methylphosphonofluoric acid 1-methylethyl ester. The solution was applied to the soil around the vine trunk, and although it proved very effective, it was considered too toxic and dangerous to use as a continuous remedy. Sarin is a highly toxic nerve gas that was once used, for example, as a chemical warfare agent and in the 1995 Tokyo subway attack.
Vineyard owners were desperate and desperate times called for desperate measures. Some resorted to voodoo-like solutions, such as burying toads under the vines to ward off evil forces, but to no avail.
Finally, some long-term solutions were identified. One solution proposed by Gustave Foëx (1844-1906), director of the École d’agriculture de Montpellier, was European breeding. V. vinifera varieties containing native North American species, however, these “French” hybrid varieties did not produce the style and quality of wine they were used to in the Old World. V. vinifera types. The second solution, now standard practice in vineyard planting and replanting worldwide, developed in the late 1870s by British-American entomologist Charles Valentine Riley (1843-1895) and French botanist Jules-Émile Planchon (1823-1888), it was the vaccine. V. vinifera grape to very specific North American subjects, such as V. riparia; the result is a vinifera– grapes grown on phylloxera-resistant rootstock.
Today, phylloxera is not a serious threat, except in vineyards and wine-growing regions that still have unvaccinated plantings. vinifera vineyards that have not yet been attacked or those that have been replanted with vines grafted onto still-vulnerable North American rootstocks, as evidenced by the phylloxera strike in California in the late 1980s. More specifically, in Napa and Sonoma counties, in the 1960s, vineyards were replanted in the so-called A×R1or Aramon Rupestris #1, a cross of Aramon, a V. vinifera variety, and an American Rupestris V. rupestris grape varieties, but which have not developed full immunity against phylloxera.
Modern vineyards now have a wide selection of rootstocks known to be highly resistant to phylloxera and adaptable to specific environmental conditions. One example is SO4 or Selection Oppenheim #4, a cross between two native North American species, V. berlandieri and V. riparia cultivars known to perform well in cool climate regions, especially on moist soils.
Considering the cost of uprooting and replanting the vines, the fact that it takes an average of five years for the vines to produce wine-worthy grapes, and the resulting loss of income, it’s surprising that history was no deterrent to these vintners.
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