89: New Pierce’s Disease Vaccine

Pierce’s Disease is caused by bacteria spread by xylem sucking insects. The bacteria move quickly throughout the vine causing disease which blocks the flow of liquid through the plant. Symptoms of leaf scorching – leaves that are curled and dried up on the edges - show up mid-summer. This pathogen is successful because plant does not recognize that it is there and does not mount a good defense.

Steven Lindow, Professor of Plant Pathology at the University of California Berkley is a plant pathologist and microbial ecologist. He and his team are researching other bacteria that can grow in the grapevine that mysteriously sensitize them to the Pierce’s Disease pathogen. Once inoculated with the new bacteria the plant induces its innate immune system to combat Pierces Disease. This process works like a vaccine although the bacteria itself does not cause a direct action.

Naturally found in onions, the bacteria can be applied in a spray with a surfactant. Current research indicates that this process will need to be repeated annually. As the EPA considers beneficial bacteria a pesticide, Lindow is pursuing the registration process so this technique can be used commercially.


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