Management of Grapevine Leafroll Disease – What Level of Mealybug Control is Needed?

Grapevine leafroll-associated viruses (GLRaV) are a complex of viruses that cause leaf chlorosis and leaf margins to “roll” downward.  GLRaVs can reduce yields, delay fruit maturity, and impede fruit pigmentation. Our work focused on control measures for the insect vectors of GLRaV. In 2013 we monitored changes in vine mealybug (VMB) populations in three areas that were formerly part of an areawide mating disruption program and showed that populations have increased in two out of the three of the areas since the removal of pheromone dispensers. Trap catches surrounding historical “hotspots” were also elevated, suggesting that mealybug populations in these areas are spreading. We continued a six-year field study mapping the establishment and spread of GLRaV in a 20 acre vineyard planted in 2008 from certified virus-free scion and bordered by blocks with GLRaV-infected vines and mealybugs. PCR tests revealed that 17 out of 25 vines that were visually identified as symptomatic for GLRaV in 2011 and 2012 were in fact infected by red blotch, which was present in the vineyard by at least 2011. Red blotch-infected vines were randomly distributed inside the mapped plot.

We conducted a study of aerial grape and vine mealybug dispersal at two 10-acre vineyard sites in the Napa Valley, using sticky traps that were deployed in a grid pattern throughout each site. We have not observed mealybugs on the sticky traps that have been processed thus far, suggesting that aerial dispersal by mealybugs is uncommon in Napa vineyards. Work examining the temperature development rates of grape, obscure and Gills mealybugs is ongoing; we began this work with grape mealybug but were unable to maintain sufficient numbers on vines, and will attempt the work again in 2014 with added improvements.

We conducted several transmission experiments to: 1) compare GLRaV-3 transmission efficiency of mealybugs of different ages; 2) detect GLRaV-3 in various grapevine tissues after first inoculation; and 3) determine latency period between first inoculation and successful transmission of GLRaV-3 by vine mealybug (VMB) crawlers. The results indicate that VMBs of all ages are capable of transmitting GLRaV-3 in grapevines, but that first instar VMBs (crawlers) are the most efficient stage. The detection experiments showed that GLRaV-3 can be detected in potted grapevines 3-4 weeks after inoculation and crawlers can acquire and transmit GLRaV-3 from newly inoculated vines 2 weeks after first inoculation. The findings indicate that the infected grapevines could serve as a virus source long before the appearance of GLD symptoms. The stage-specific transmission studies showed that VMB (crawlers) are the most efficient stage and based on biology of VMB crawlers are also the most dispersible stage. Therefore, the GLD management efforts should focus primarily on effective control of VMB crawlers. However, previous studies have shown that application of even some of the highly effective insecticides after VMB infestation may not prevent GLRAV-3 inoculation by VMB crawlers in newly infested blocks. In this situation, application of fast acting products in a proactive manner would be the best approach to manage GLD in vineyards.