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Mildew-Eating Mite: Tomorrow's Vineyard Superhero?

photo of hister beetle eating a fly larva

Specific beneficial mites, such as the one magnified here, eat powdery mildew and could potentially reduce the use of certain fungicides.

Wine producers grow 71 million pounds of grapes each year. Some cultivars–Chardonnay and Riesling, for example–are highly susceptible to fungal diseases such as powdery mildew, and growers must spray several times during the season. Now researchers are investigating a tiny mite that eats powdery mildew. These mites seem to do their best work early in the growing season, when the fruit is most susceptible to disease.

"This past year was a rough year for mites on wild grapes because it was so hot and dry–but mite populations in the experimental vineyard increased anyway. And the mites did significantly reduce leaf infection of powdery mildew. The big test will be to see if the mites can reduce fruit infection, which is the most serious threat of powdery mildew." 

–Greg Loeb, entomologist, NYSAES