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European grapevine moth quarantine lifted in county

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Posted: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 5:57 am, Wed Feb 29, 2012.

Lodi growers are looking forward to a reprieve from some stiff state regulations to keep the European grapevine moth under control. A quarantine over San Joaquin County agriculture will lift on March 8, though officials say some controls will remain in place to monitor the pest. Quarantines were also lifted from Fresno, Merced and Mendocino counties.

"Thank God they lifted the quarantine," said Joe Valente, vineyard and orchard manager for Kautz Farms. "We had to treat those sections different for a couple years."

Working within the regulations added up to more work for growers.

Kautz Farms has a few acres directly affected by quarantine and a few other fields within 1,000 meters of the area. Those zones had to be treated with special pesticides. Harvesters and other equipment had to be cleaned after use at each field within the quarantined area, a 96-square-mile zone surrounding Lodi. For growers shipping freshly packed wine grapes and other produce, there was an added hurdle of paperwork. The regulations extended through the industry from growers to wineries.

About 660,000 acres will be released from quaratine.

The Lodi District Grape Growers Association complimented the coordination between the San Joaquin County Agriculture Commission, the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the USDA to keep on top of the quarantine.

Amy Blagg, executive director, recalled the challenges of new regulations in August 2010, just before that year's harvest.

"It took a lot of cooperation to make sure everyone was working under the compliance agreements," said Blagg.

Two pests still require quarantine regulations. Part of the confusion was in meeting the correct requirements for the Oriental fruit fly, light brown apple moth and the European grapevine moth.

The problem with the moth is the larvae will burrow inside maturing fruit and leave an open wound prone to rot. While only two moths were found in the Lodi area, it was enough to trigger the strict quarantine.

But Scott Hudson, agricultural commissioner for San Joaquin County, is confident the pest is gone.

A trapping program will continue for the 2012 growing season. Five thousand moth traps will be placed by Friday.

"It's such a pest of concern. This is extra insurance that we are free by trapping another season," said Hudson, adding that some kind of trapping program will continue was long as the pest is in the state.

Those traps will be paid for in part by $8 million in federal funding to continue the program, announced U.S. Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack. The funds go to continue the program in all four counties where the quarantine was lifted.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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