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Sharpshooter is infesting northern areas of county

June 12, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL

Staff Writer

The glassy-winged sharpshooter, known to have caused millions in dollars of damage to the wine grape crop, is infesting two areas of northern Imperial County close to the Riverside County border.

The insect spreads Xylella fastidiosa, a bacterium that causes Pierce's disease in grapes. Strains of the bacterium cause other diseases such as almond leaf scorch, alfalfa dwarf, oleander leaf scorch and citrus variegated chlorosis.

The sharpshooter feeds on alfalfa and citrus crops and could spread to the rest of the Valley, county entomologist Jolene Dessert said.

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A few North County residents and farmers met with state and county Agricultural Commissioner's Office staff Tuesday to learn how treatment of the infestation will affect them.

Pierce's disease has not been found in the two infestations in Imperial County, state glassy-winged sharpshooter program biologist Rodney Mendes said.

An eradication program will be used on an infestation at the Fountain of Youth Spa and RV Resort north of Niland, where 16 lots will be treated.

Another infestation area in the northwest corner of the county has been left untreated but monitored, county Agricultural Commissioner's Office biologist Ramon Ortega said.

The Agricultural Commissioner's Office will notify RV park residents before any chemicals are sprayed or soaked into soil. The county expects to start spraying next week, Ortega said.

Most of the sharpshooters were found on citrus trees in the resort. The fruit on the trees will be fine to eat seven days after treatment, he said.

Most of the resort's residents are snowbirds who have returned to their northern homes for the summer. They might not know about the infestation until they return in the fall.

Colin Bornia, farm manager at Pacific Aquafarms, said he is concerned about the chemicals used to kill the sharpshooter because the fishery draws water from a ditch several hundred feet from the area to be treated.

"If the chemical gets into the water, our concern is that it would kill fish or put something in the fish that makes them unhealthful to eat," Bornia said.

The county plans to use Merit 75 WP insecticide in the soil and spray with 7 Carbaryl insecticide.

The chemical treatment will be monitored by the state Department of Pest Regulation.

Neighboring Riverside and San Diego counties are completely infested with the insect. San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Orange counties are also completely infested, as well as parts of Kern and Santa Barbara counties.

Tulare, Fresno, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, Sacramento and Butte counties have spot infestations and are using eradication programs similar to what Imperial County plans to use.

County officials believe the glassy-winged sharpshooter entered Imperial County through neighboring counties and via infected nursery stock from infected areas.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or lauramitchell9@yahoo.com.

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