After destroying about a third of the grapevines and causing nearly $10 million damage in the Temecula wine region, the dreaded vineyard scourge Pierce's disease appears to be spreading across the southern half of the state's second-largest grape growing area, Kern County. In one corner of the county alone, the disease has been confirmed in a dozen vineyards, and farmers and government officials are pulling out more than 600 infected vines. Since it usually takes a year or two for symptoms to show up after a plant has been infected, officials think it is likely that more cases will begin appearing.
The U.S. Congress has approved an agricultural spending bill that allocates $10.5 million to battle and control the spread of Pierce's disease. The funds were a third less than California officials had requested, but the bill will provide $2 million to the state to battle the disease, and $8.5 million to contain and control the glassy-winged sharpshooter, Homalodisca coagulata, the insect that spreads the disease.