News Release
California Department of Food and Agriculture
Media Contact:
Steve Lyle, Office of Public Affairs, (916) 654-0462,
Pierce’s Disease Research Symposium December 5-7 Will Provide Status Report on Fight Against Disease, Glassy-winged Sharpshooter
Release #01-105
SACRAMENTO—The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Pierce’s Disease Control Program has invited the lead researchers on over 60 projects to an upcoming Research Symposium in Coronado to provide a status report on the fight to cure Pierce’s disease.
“Pierce’s disease has already done enough damage to California’s vineyards to qualify it as a very serious threat to our state’s agricultural community,” said CDFA Secretary William (Bill) J. Lyons, Jr. “The solution to this complex problem will require a significant and sustained scientific effort, and that is exactly where we’re headed with the current wave of 60-plus projects.”
The Pierce’s Disease Research Symposium will be held on December 5-7 at the Marriott Coronado Island Resort. The symposium will begin with two days of reports by researchers conducting projects funded through a partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), CDFA, and other public and private entities. Friday’s session will provide a somewhat less technical summary of researchers’ progress to date, along with commentary from program leaders on the future direction of research.
Research projects funded to date include screening pesticides and alternative treatments; basic analysis of the bacteria and insect, including a genome sequencing project; evaluation of some plants’ natural resistance to the bacteria; and several other possible solutions.
Scientists and growers discovered in the late 1990s that glassy-winged sharpshooters “vectored” Pierce’s disease, which was the cause of dying grape vine in Southern California. Since then, the USDA, CDFA, and other public and private entities have funded over $10 million in research projects, with the long-term goal of finding a cure or treatment for the disease and the shorter-term goal of limiting the spread of the insect and the disease-causing bacteria it carries.
The disease-causing bacteria, Xylella fastidiosa, kills vines and other plants, or renders them commercially useless, by clogging the water-conducting tissues that carry nutrients throughout a plant’s system. The bacteria attaches to the glassy-winged sharpshooter’s mouth as it feeds on an infected plant, and is passed on to other plants as the insect continues to move and feed throughout its life—up to several months.
Governor Davis has taken a number of steps to combat this threat to California agriculture. Over the past two years, the governor has signed legislation providing state funds to boost research and eradication efforts. To date, more than $40 million in state and federal funds has been allocated to fight Pierce's disease and the glassy-winged sharpshooter. The CDFA coordinates the statewide regulatory program, which includes long-term research and short-term eradication and control programs.
For a complete listing of the projects to be covered at the symposium, see

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California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Public Affairs
1220 N St., Ste. 214, Sacramento, CA 95814