(This piece was initially posted on the POP Agriculture Podcast 9/19/2019)

The Tardis (photo by  Zir, Wikimedia Commons )
The Tardis (picture by Zir, Wikimedia Commons)

The present has been operating on the BBC since 1963, and a part of what makes that future potential is that the Physician has the power to be re-born once in a while with a unique human physique (though supposedly with two hearts).  There have been 13 completely different stars taking part in the a part of The Physician, and the newest one is Jodie Whittaker (#13), the primary feminine. I simply completed binge watching that season to catch up! Different latest leads have been David Tennant (#10), Matt Smith (#11), and Peter Capaldi (#12).

Arduous core Physician Who followers name themselves “Whovians,”   The City dictionary places it this manner:  Just a few straightforward methods to inform if somebody is a Whovian are: Flip off all of the lights whereas repeating "Hey, who turned out the lights?", transferring statues round whereas they don't seem to be trying or telling them to not blink whereas looking at a statue, yelling exterminate at them in a freaky as hell robotic voice, and watching how they react. If they begin screaming they're probably a Whovian.” 

So, what’s the “exterminate” factor about?  There are new and completely different “dangerous guys” for the Physician to out-wit in most episodes, however all through the years of exhibits, a frequent “risk to the way forward for humanity” has been a wierd race of robotic house beings known as the Daleks.  Again within the earliest, clearly low price range days of the present, the Daleks seemed loads like modified trash cans (I assume “mud bins” because it’s British) with bathroom plungers for arms.  That primary, funky, Daleck look has been preserved over the historical past of the present as has that creepy chant that of theirs: “Exterminate! Exterminate! ….” 
Dalek image by Nelo Hotsuma from Rockwall [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
Dalek picture by Nelo Hotsuma from Rockwall [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

So the Daleks of Dr. Who're a basic instance of fictional, pop-culture aliens who're out to exterminate people. There are additionally many examples of pop-culture tales of people attempting to “exterminate” some type of alien invaders.  On immediately’s POPagriculture podcast we're going to discuss an actual world storyabout how people efficiently managed to “Exterminate” some alien invaders who have been threatening the grape industries of California.

Normal Intro

So, in California there are many farmers who have a tendency 880,000 acres of grapes.  These embody these which are particularly for drying to make raisins.  Different grapes are grown as a pleasant, recent, principally seedless snack.  All through the state there are additionally numerous “appellations” for wine grape manufacturing.  Collectively these crops herald about 5.eight billion {dollars} a 12 months to the state’s economic system. These merchandise are cherished by not simply Individuals however by individuals around the globe.  California has almost splendid weather conditions for every of those grape classes, and since they're comparatively drought tolerant they're match for our restricted water assets.  One good factor is that we don’t have a lot rain through the summer time and so we don’t must cope with some troublesome fungal ailments which are a giant problem in locations like Europe.  There are nonetheless definitely pests that must be handled, however the grape business has at all times been a pacesetter in doing that could be a sustainable approach.

Lobesia:  European Grapevine Moth image by Jack Kelly Clark , University of California Extension
Lobesia: European Grapevine Moth picture by Jack Kelly Clark, College of California Extension
In order that’s the background, however the drama for our story started in the summertime of 2009 in a well-known, premium wine grape-growing area known as the Napa Valley.  One of many growers there noticed a caterpillar munching away on a few of his grapes.  Now there are a number of sorts of moths that may be pests of California grapes, significantly throughout their larval stage as caterpillars.  However the grower seen that this one didn’t seem like these acquainted sorts. Being suspicious he despatched an image to a county extension agent – a sort of College worker whose job it's to help the business with analysis and recommendation.  It turned out that was a brand new sort of moth to California – an alien invader!  Okay, not an area alien, however scary from the angle of grape farmers.  It was known as the European Grapevine Moth or “EVGM.” As its identify implies it has been a pest in that continent for a very long time.  That identify doesn’t sound scary sufficient for our story so lets use the scientific identify, Lobesia botrana.

Now the factor is that this wasn’t simply one other moth.  The caterpillar stage of this bug would do much more harm to the grape clusters than the opposite moth species and that will imply good issues like “frass” or insect poop on the grapes or later the raisins.  To make issues worse, the feeding opens the best way for fungi that rot the grapes and that sort of an infection can unfold from berry to berry all through the cluster.  This might make it loads more durable for the raisin growers to have a top quality product, it could imply much more meals waste even all the best way to the buyer stage for the desk grapes.  Moldy grapes undoubtedly don’t make for prime quality wine!

Rotting grape image by Andrea Lucchi , University of California
Rotting grape picture by Andrea Lucchi, College of California


Now after all there wasn’t an extraterrestrial “Physician” to guide this marketing campaign, however even Dr. Who drafts a group of normal people to assist defeat the aliens.

On this case the group comprised representatives of the grower communities, college consultants and authorities staff from the related state and federal departments. They held an emergency assembly and determined that they needed to see if they may provide you with a option to not solely cease the unfold of the pest, but when in any respect potential to utterly eradicate it from California.  Eradicate! Doesn’t sound fairly as harsh as “exterminate!” but it surely’s primarily the identical thought.



To be able to see what they have been up in opposition to, sixty thousand “Sticky traps” have been distributed state huge at a density of 39 per sq. kilometer in vineyards and 10 per sq. kilometer in residential areas. Within the subsequent 2010 rising season they discovered 100,000 moths in a number of California counties.  This was going to be a giant problem!  Solely a complete technique with broad participation would give any hope of successful.  So the group developed a multi-prong technique:


These sticky traps continued for use to observe progress, however they have been cautious to make use of crimson coloured traps as a result of they're much much less prone to by accident lure honeybees.


It was vital to seek out methods to restrict additional unfold of the aliens. The grownup moths can fly, however they don’t are inclined to fly too far so long as they'll discover the grapes they need. Quarantine guidelines have been set as much as forestall fruit, farm gear, recycled fence or grape posts, or different issues that may enable the pest to hitch-hike lengthy distances. It turned out that the moth larvae might survive the stemming and crushing and even urgent of wine grapes – so it was crucial to not transfer round these by-products of the winemaking course of.


In addition they used an method known as “pheromone confusion” that was arrange on an area-wide foundation the place the Lobesia had been discovered.  This entails placing up emitters of the particular intercourse hormone for this moth in order that the males are getting so many “scent trails” that they hardly ever truly discover a feminine to really mate. 


There have been a number of outreach applications to get all people up to the mark on the scenario and to know their position.  This included grape growers, wineries, and fruit or raisin packers, and pest management advisors. The outreach additionally needed to embody on the order of three,000 owners as a result of in addition they wanted to cooperate, particularly if that they had yard grapes, as many did. The coordinated activity pressure would assist these house owners to deal with their grapes or take away their fruit in order that they didn’t change into a reservoir to then fan out into the industrial vineyards. Not solely have been there public conferences to succeed in all these teams, there was a Fb web page and an internet site at www.bugspot.org.


The researchers developed a classy “diploma day mannequin” to foretell when every of the 3-Four new generations of moths could be popping out in order that insecticide sprays might be timed good, not solely to guard the crop, however to forestall the moth numbers from actually blowing up as they'd if not strategically checked this manner.  Nearly all of this spraying was performed on a voluntary foundation on the grower’s personal price.  In Napa and Sonoma in 2012 the growers handled greater than 12,000 acres.  The natural growers additionally sprayed utilizing the insecticide choices which are allowed underneath their guidelines.  


The mix of the quarantines, the pheromone confusion and the well-timed insecticide sprays achieved what known as an “allee impact” in inhabitants biology lingo.  That is when the inhabitants measurement will get all the way down to the purpose the place there are too few of the pests in a given space to efficiently mate.


Historical progress  towards eradication of EVGM from California. University of California.
 Historic progress in direction of eradication of EVGM from California. College of California.

This huge, voluntary, cooperative effort was extremely coordinated throughout the completely different counties of the state and it started to repay.  In 2011 there have been 2,335 acres quarantined due to the presence of the moth.  By 2014 that quantity was all the way down to 446 acres.  By 2016 the pest was formally declared to have been eradicated.

Figure 2 Victory Lap! (University of California)
Victory Lap! (College of California)



Within the Dr Who exhibits the Daleks don’t ever appear to handle to “eradicate” people, however on this story the people managed to “eradicate” the alien pest. 


There have been another historic examples the place the people have been in a position to “exterminate” a brand new insect pest.  One other technique that was utilized in a few of these battles was the intentional launch of sterile males of the pest species in order that they in order that they'd out-compete the wild males attempting to breed with the wild females.  This helped when the Mediterranean Fruit Fly got here to California a number of instances through the years.   


One other pest eradication success story needed to do with a pest of cotton known as the Pink Bollworm.  In that case along with the discharge of sterile males, pheromone confusion, area-wide “plow downs” and strategic sprays, the growers additionally had the chance to make use of traces of “Bt cotton,” genetically engineered to be proof against the pest. 


Now sadly, it can by no means be potential to have this type of victory over all of the pests of grapes or any crops for that matter.  Nonetheless, when growers are solely up in opposition to a well-recognized set of pests, they'll obtain a ample diploma of management to guard their livelihood, preserve meals reasonably priced, and stop the pest-related high quality or meals security issues that will in any other case movement on all the way down to the buyer stage.