In 2008, a brand new pest appeared in South American vineyards for the primary time. The European grapevine moth, Lobesia botrana, was detected in Chile and shortly after unfold to Argentina, the place it affected at the very least 30 % of vineyards.
The grapevine moth, which might feed on both flower or fruit, is a critical risk. If the moth assaults mature grape clusters, the berries can turn into additional broken or contaminated with a fungus known as botrytis, resulting in a lowered grape harvest, drop in wine manufacturing and, in the end, main revenue loss.
Argentina, the fifth largest wine-producing nation on the planet, acknowledged the danger instantly. In 2011, the nation declared a “phytosanitary emergency” so as to get the grapevine moth drawback below management and preserve it from spreading from Mendoza—world famend for its Malbec wines and residential to greater than 356,000 acres of vineyards—to different close by wine areas.
At Santa Julia Vineyards, winery supervisor Edgardo Consoli rapidly carried out a remedy that makes use of using synthetic pheromones, which replicate the intercourse hormones launched by feminine moths that allow males to find them extra simply.
At the start of spring, Consoli hangs pheromone dispensers, that are utilized by hand, all through the vineyards—a way that’s been used to guard European vineyards in Italy, Germany and France for many years. The dispensers are product of a porous plastic that slowly releases the pheromone over many months. When the males observe the scent, they’re tricked into flying to areas the place there aren’t really any females to mate with, stopping them from producing extra offspring and, due to this fact, defending the vineyards from future pests. This technique of mating disruption doesn’t require using any pesticides, and it’s permitted in natural farming.
“It’s a fantastic solution that allows us to reduce the size of the [grapevine moth] populations,” says Belén Iácono, chief agronomist for Catena Zapata’s Adrianna Winery in Mendoza, which additionally makes use of pheromone units within the vineyards. “It’s very efficient, so we haven’t had damage in the vineyards, as it controls plagues throughout the whole cycle.”
The intercourse pheromone remedy has been efficient, rescuing grapevines throughout Argentina. However not everyone was glad with the distribution units getting used, that are expensive and require an excessive amount of labor to put in 12 months after 12 months.
That’s why the agricultural biotech firm ISCA, which focuses on sustainable pest management, stepped in to supply a greater answer. In 2018, ISCA launched SPLAT Lobesia, a liquid, non-toxic and biodegradable pheromone that’s aerially utilized by way of airplanes or drones. The answer consists of food-grade elements—principally oils, waxes and water—that maintain the artificial pheromone in place.
“All other solutions with relevant sales in the market rely on a relatively large plastic reservoir or plastic devices that need to be placed in the field one by one,” says Agenor Mafra-Neto, CEO of ISCA. “Manual labor is a problem in many geographies…and these manually applied products [are] extremely difficult and expensive to apply in the field.”
In Mendoza, the Institute of Agricultural Well being and High quality (ISCAMEN) has embraced SPLAT Lobesia, making use of it to tens of hundreds of acres of vineyards throughout the valley. Handled areas have seen populations of grapevine moths drop by as much as 95 %. The product can also be utilized in different components of the world, together with Turkey, however Mendoza has the most important SPLAT Lobesia program, in line with Mafra-Neto.
SPLAT Lobesia has helped Mendoza for the final three years, and now, ISCA is trying to take the expertise to Chile and Europe, the opposite main wine-producing markets. The product’s success in defending Argentinian vineyards may even have constructive implications for fixing pest points for different crops. As a result of the artificial pheromones goal a selected species, it doesn’t have an effect on different non-target organisms, together with pollinators and different helpful bugs, in addition to people. ISCA additionally carries mating disruption merchandise for pests that have an effect on tomatoes, apples, peaches and nuts, and for row crops similar to corn, soy and cotton.
Mafra-Neto hopes to see extra growers embrace this sustainable technique of pest administration. “The penetration of the pheromone mating disruption industry has been relegated to a very small slice of the agricultural market,” he says. “[We’ve reached] just over a million acres globally out of the hundreds of millions of acres of agricultural crops that need safer pest control.”