The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has awarded $1 million for research on insect-caused vineyard pathogens through the Biologically Integrated Farming Systems (BIFS) grant program. The program is designed to reduce the use of chemical insecticides. The BIFS project will last for four years and received strong support from the winegrape industry.

The project, to be held in the Lodi and Central Coast winegrape regions, will establish two demonstration blocks of at least 1,000-acres each. Scientists will use pheromone disruption tools to control vine mealybug, the insect responsible for grape leafroll disease. Infected vines will also be systematically removed to prevent the spread of this economically devastating disease.

“BIFS practices have been found to reduce pesticide use, including chlorpyrifos and other organophosphate insecticides; improve soil fertility; decrease erosion and nitrogen leaching; and increase populations of beneficial insects, fishes, birds and game—all of which are very important in creating sustainable, climate-smart agricultural operations,” CDFA Secretary Karen Ross said.

Grant program outreach efforts bring together scientists, farmers and consultants in a collaborative environment that enables farmers to learn and adapt new farming practices to local conditions.

The project could eventually benefit Tri-Valley winegrowers and surrounding communities. The Livermore Valley wine region is home to more than 50 wineries with more than 5,000 acres of vineyards, according to the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association. The 31 grape varieties planted in the county had a total assessed value of about $18 million in 2017, according to Alameda County’s Department of Agriculture.