Agriculture: Trouble At the Roots

New strains of a louse are chewing up California's finest vineyards, but that could lead to better wines someday

In Napa and Sonoma counties, heartland of California's $730 million-a-year wine industry, prospects are promising for a bumper harvest this fall. Beneath the deceptively lush surface of the peaceful vineyards, however, an expensive disaster looms. Billions of microscopic parasites called phylloxeras are munching away at the roots of the grape-bearing stalks. While no threat to human health, within a decade the tiny insects could eat their way through 50,000 acres of the nation's finest vineyards. Estimates of the total damage, including the cost of replanting with Phylloxera-resistant stalks, range from $500 million to more than $1 billion.

That is the bad...

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