Is Vector Control Sufficient to Limit Pathogen Spread in Vineyards?
Vector control is widely viewed as an integral part of disease management. Yet epidemiological theory suggests that the effectiveness of control programs at limiting pathogen spread depends on a variety of intrinsic and extrinsic aspects of a pathosystem. Moreover, control programs rarely evaluate whether reductions in vector density or activity translate into reduced disease prevalence. In areas of California invaded by the glassy-winged sharpshooter (Homalodisca vitripennis Germar), Pierce's disease management relies heavily on chemical control of this vector, primarily via systemic conventional insecticides (i.e., imidacloprid). But, data are lacking that attribute reduced vector pressure and pathogen spread to sharpshooter control. We surveyed 34 vineyards over successive years to assess the epidemiological value of within-vineyard chemical control. The results showed that imidacloprid reduced vector pressure without clear nontarget effects or secondary pest outbreaks. Effects on disease prevalence were more nuanced. Treatment history over the preceding 5 yr affected disease prevalence, with significantly more diseased vines in untreated compared with regularly or intermittently treated vineyards. Yet, the change in disease prevalence between years was low, with no significant effects of insecticide treatment or vector abundance. Collectively, the results suggest that within-vineyard applications of imidacloprid can reduce pathogen spread, but with benefits that may take multiple seasons to become apparent. The relatively modest effect of vector control on disease prevalence in this system may be attributable in part to the currently low regional sharpshooter population densities stemming from area-wide control, without which the need for within-vineyard vector control would be more pronounced.