Sierra Dawn McClain/Capital Press (copy)

Researchers say the white-headed grape leaffolder, a relatively new pest to Pacific Northwest vineyards, could pose a threat to vineyard health.

Researchers from Washington State University and the Washington State Wine Commission will hold a webinar Thursday, March 4, at 12:30 p.m. Pacific time to talk with growers about the white-headed grape leaffolder, a relatively new pest to Pacific Northwest vineyards.

According to the university, the caterpillar was discovered a few years ago in vineyards in the Yakima and Columbia valleys of Washington.

Although leaf-eating caterpillars are common in the eastern U.S. and in California, they have not presented a problem in Washington state vineyards until recently, the researchers say.

The pest populations so far have been localized in a small number of vineyards, but their presence there has caused serious harm, nearly defoliating some young vineyards. Scientists say the caterpillars may also have the potential to contaminate fruit.

WSU entomologist David James will help vineyard owners better understand the pest, how to respond to it and how to prevent its spread with integrated pest management strategies.

James' research into the caterpillar has thus far been funded by the wine commission and the Auction of Washington Wines.

According to a university statement, James is working to determine "the economic impact of the pest, population densities that impact yields and fruit quality when control methods are necessary."

Growers can register for the free webinar here.

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