Understanding and managing the trunk disease Esca

Summary: Vine surgery (also known as trunk renewal) has been shown to be effective against
Eutypa dieback, but trunk pathogens cause mixed infections. Vineyards are thus likely to be
affected by more than one trunk disease. Furthermore, Eutypa dieback is not even the most
common trunk disease in California. It is important to also test the efficacy of vine surgery
against Esca because infections by two common Esca pathogens, Phaeomoniella chlamydospora
and Phaeoacremonium minimum, can occur at the base of the trunk, either during the
propagation process in the nursery or potentially by infections through roots after being planted
in the vineyard. To accomplish this objective, we established a replicated field trial in a
Sauvignon blanc vineyard in Lake County, CA. Vine surgery was done on vines with leaf
symptoms on shoots growing from only one cane, the idea being that the infection might be
restricted to that portion of the vasculature. In February 2018, we chain-sawed such vines above
the graft union and noted the presence of wood symptoms in 98 total data vines, which were
located among three experimental blocks in the vineyard. The vast majority of the 98 data vines
had wood symptoms, although they were restricted to less than 10% of the cross-section of the
trunk. This observation is important and is not so discouraging because a previous study of vine
surgery, combined with annual fungicide treatments of the cut trunk, showed that a higher
proportion of vines with wood symptoms on less than 20% of the trunk cross-section had normal
vigor and yields 8 years later, compared to vines with more advanced wood symptoms. In the 3rd
year after vine surgery (2020), the data vines will be fully trained and (assuming they are
healthy) are likely to be producing normal yields. After all, this is the goal of vine surgery, to
return vines to productivity and faster than would be possible with a replant. In January 2020,
we will submit a proposal to evaluate the progress of vine surgery, based on presence/absence of
leaf symptoms, vine growth, yields, and juice quality. The second objective of our study was to
identify the Basidiomycete wood-rotting fungi that cause Esca. For many years, there was an
untested assumption that these fungi infected vines after they were already infected by
Ascomycetes Phaeomoniella chlamydospora or Phaeoacremonium species. Our pathogenicity
tests show the wood-rotting fungi are pathogens when inoculated to vines alone. Because the
Basidiomycetes are assumed to be secondary pathogens, management practices have not been
evaluated against them. The most widespread Basidiomycete was Fomitiporia polymorpha.
This species was previously reported from one vineyard in California, so our finding expands its
range within the state. We described a new Basidiomycete species Inonotus vitis, which
represents the first report of Inonotus on grape in the Americas. Pathogenicity studies will be
established in January 2019 to evaluate whether I. vitis is pathogenic. If it is, then it might make
sense to include this species (along with F. polymorpha) in evaluations of pruning-wound