A virulent vine disease has broken out in Piedmont causing widespread devastation in some areas and prompting fears that hundreds of hectares of vineyard could be lost.
Although the disease, known as Baco 22A disease or Flavescenza Dorata, is nothing new to the northern Italian region, producers are coming together to work out how to combat the Scaffo Ideus Tritanus bug that carries it.
The province of Alessandria in particular has experienced the disease before. A major outbreak in 1998 caused high levels of alarm with hundreds of hectares of vineyards being infected. The disease causes the plants to dry out and die.
‘During the last few years it has been kept under control by preventive spraying,’ says Alberto Pansecchi, agronomist consultant to various estates in Alessandria including Accornero and Vicara. ‘This year we are again faced with a serious outbreak which has rapidly spread into the vineyards of Asti, as well as Alba and Roero.’
According to Pansecchi, the preventive measure most widely used is based on organic insecticides made from a natural compost of chrysanthemums and daisies.
‘Officially, when the plants are infected, by law they must be pulled out,’ explains Pansecchi.
However, this is easier said than done. According to Pansecchi and other vineyard specialists, Piedmont’s numerous small producers and farmers with less than a hectare of vineyard are either not aware of the disease or not prepared to admit their vineyards are infected, thus potentially losing their entire crop.
‘Out of Alessandria’s 15,000 hectares of vineyards, at least 10% has been officially declared infected, but it is realistically more like 30%,’ says producer Ermanno Accornero, who has lost 30% of his 20ha.
Written by Michèle Shah