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Erin Ross Nov 7
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To save wine from disease, scientists are breeding native plants

The teaching vineyards at UC Davis.Photo: Gregory Urquiaga / UC Davis

Pierce's Disease is a grapevine strangler. Once bacteria that cause it get into a plant — via insects — it clogs the plant's vascular system and deprives it of water. There's no treatment. Andy Walker, a plant geneticist at UC Davis, is developing new grape varietals that resist the disease. But once the wine is ready to grow, there's another challenge: getting vintners and consumers to try a new wine.

Why it matters:

  • Modern movement of people seems to have increased the spread of agricultural diseases.
  • It's also possible climate change may increase the range over which a pest or disease can flourish.
  • As demand for organic products increases, Walker thinks vintners will need to grow more disease-resistant types of grapes.