Biological control station produces tiny wasps that are sharpshooters’ natural enemies
ARVIN – CDFA Secretary A. G. Kawamura today helped dedicate a new facility designed to produce and release tiny wasps that are natural enemies of the glassy-winged sharpshooter. The Arvin Field Station is part of CDFA’s Pierce’s Disease Program, which is engaged in the fight against the sharpshooter and the diseases it spreads in grapevines and other crops and plants.
“The long-term survival and success of agriculture is tied to our ability to continually improve our crops, our methods, and our responses to crises like the arrival of the glassy-winged sharpshooter,” Kawamura said. “Biocontrol is one of this industry’s most significant advancements, giving growers an important tool that is relatively inexpensive, environmentally benign, and proven effective. I am proud to open the Arvin Field Station to serve the California agricultural community.”
The four-acre facility, located in Arvin, in Kern County, is operated jointly by CDFA and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). CDFA Senior Environmental Research Scientist David Morgan oversees operations. The biocontrol crew includes two full-time staff from each agency as well as five seasonal staff. The station also houses a survey crew that monitors sharpshooter populations in the region. The site previously served as a watermelon seed plant, and provides ample space for the secured greenhouse, lab and offices required for the biocontrol project.
Biological control of the glassy-winged sharpshooter is achieved by releasing thousands of tiny, stingerless wasps that lay their eggs inside the egg masses of the sharpshooter. As the new wasps emerge, they eat the sharpshooter eggs and significantly reduce the number of sharpshooters that hatch.
The sharpshooter biocontrol program began in 2000 at U.C. Riverside, with scientists there producing and releasing the wasp Gonatocerus triguttatus in Riverside, Ventura and Kern counties. The new Arvin facility effectively doubles the production space for GWSS biocontrol agents, providing enough for releases in the Central Valley and Central Coast counties. CDFA recently renovated the Mount Rubidoux Field Station in Riverside and in 2002 a new greenhouse was constructed nearby on University of California grounds and is already in full operation. The Riverside facility produces GWSS biological control agents for release into the six southernmost counties of California.
The program now produces several species of wasps and has increased the pace of production steadily, with more than 400,000 released statewide last year. The program released its millionth wasp in June.
Pierce's disease is a lethal disease that afflicts grapevines. It is caused by the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, which sharpshooters spread as they feed. The bacterium causes similar diseases in almonds, stone fruits and other crops and plants. For additional information on the glassy-winged sharpshooter and Pierce’s disease, please visit www.cdfa.ca.gov/phpps/pdcp.
California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Public Affairs
1220 N St., Ste. 214, Sacramento, CA 95814