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  Editorial Issue 106, April 2012   
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Issue 105, March 2012 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 107, May 2012

The Moth and the Grape


 The life of a vintner would be too much boring in case he or she would only cultivate the vineyard, harvesting grapes and make wine. It would in fact be too simple - even boring - to just think about pruning vines, waiting for Nature to do its job, defoliating when needed, thinning grapes, harvesting and enjoying the wine he or she makes. Luckily, Nature as well as the intervention of man on natural balance of the environment, have always worked in order to make the life of vintner more exciting and thrilling. The vintner can in fact engage wars against parasites and vine diseases, in order not to get bored, sitting on a chair all the time while waiting for the grapes to properly ripe. Always being in a state of alert, always watching the vineyard - every single vine, every single leaf and grape - in order not to miss every signal in time therefore avoiding the worse. And he or she must act quickly, provided it is not too late.


 

 Nature, everyone knows, is sometimes insidious: many living beings, practically all of them, have their natural enemies that, in fighting for survival, try to take advantage of others in order to ensure the survival of their own species. Mors tua, vita mea (your death, my life) reads a famous saying of ancient times. The organism subject of the attack has two possibilities: succumbs to the fury of the attacker or develops defense strategies in order to avoid the worse. Sometimes the enemies of the enemies give a help, bringing to the significant result of saving - as a side effect - the species subject to the attack. Developing specific defenses is evidently more complex, not always possible, sometimes fruit of an environmental adaptation which can bring to a change of the structure and biological functions. A never ending fight among beings which make everything in order to survive, even at the cost of taking advantage or defeating other species. By paraphrasing a famous cue of the movie “Deadline - U.S.A.” said by Humphrey Bogart playing the character of Ed Hutcheson: That's Nature, baby!.

 Not only Nature. Sometimes man do its part and, in its delirium of omnipotence - voluntary or not - modifies some natural balances, frequently causing remarkable damages and endangering the survival of many species. It happened for many animals and plants, the vine - of course - was not saved by these interferences. We can think of phylloxera, for example, introduced by man to Europe causing huge damages to the vineyards of the Old Continent. The introduction of phylloxera certainly was accidental, even though the fearful aphid was unknown in its homeland - North America - and it found completely defenseless the roots of Vitis Vinifera. The first “mysterious” effects were recorded in France in 1863, spreading in few tens of years all over Europe, seriously menacing the survival of vineyards. Today the phylloxera is found in all the wine making countries of the world, bringing to a radical change of vine cultivation.

 Just like phylloxera, the new menace for European vineyards comes from North America. It should be said, for the sake of truth, it is not lethal like phylloxera, but however causes remarkable damages to the vine. This time is not an aphid but a small bug belonging to the family of moths. Its scientific name is Antispila Oinophylla and it is a vine's leaf “miner”, causing its destruction. The name itself, as a matter of fact, is very clean on what this moth is doing: Oinophylla comes from the Greek terms oinos, that is “wine” and phylla, that is “leaves”, because its larvae are being deposited and live in vine leaves. Antispila Oinophylla was discovered for the first time in Italy, in the North-East area of the Country, in particular in Veneto and Trentino Alto Adige. This moth was unknown in its home land, a factor which considerably delayed its identification.

 The small moth has caused many troubles to the vintners of these areas and, it seems, it is now spreading in Lombardy, in the area of Brescia, therefore in Franciacorta. To deprive a plant of its leaves, vine is no exception, means deeply affecting its biological activity. The identification of this moth required a remarkable effort of many research institutes. The research and identification was done by professors Mario Baldessari and Gino Angeli of Edmun Mach Foundation of Istituto Agrario San Michele all'Adige; Vicenzo Girolami, Carlo Duso and Luca Mazzon of University of Padua, Department of Environmental Agronomy and Crop Science; Erik J. Van Nieukerken and Camiel Doorenweerd of Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity; David L. Wagner of University of Connecticut, Department Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. The results of this important research have been published on the online magazine ZooKeys.

 This moth - just 3 millimeters long and with a wingspan of six - having a preference for Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Muscat Blanc vines, could also spread in other areas of the Country. According to researchers who have been successful in identifying and studying it, the remedy to this moth - luckily - seems to be natural. it in fact seems that the only remedy to fight Antispila Oinophylla are parasitic wasps, which would become their natural enemies useful to limit their proliferation. How this moth arrived to Italy however remains a mystery: the most supported hypothesis is that it was transported with goods from North America, not necessarily associated to agriculture or viticulture. The “damage” is however made and we now have to find a remedy before it is too late. We just have to wish the remedy will not have side effects which could cause other damages, not only to vines, but also and in particular to environmental balance and its respect. We just have to wait for the precious job of experts.

Antonello Biancalana






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  Editorial Issue 106, April 2012   
The Moth and the GrapeThe Moth and the Grape  Contents 
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