Saturday, August 13, 2016

Phylloxera vastatrix, meaning “devastator of vines”

Literally, Phylloxera vastatrix means dry-leaf devastator. The binomial term is composed of three words of the following origins: the Greek noun phyllon for leaf; the Greek/Hebrew adjective xeros for dry; and the Latin noun vastatrix for waster, ravager or devastator [1-3].

Phylloxera vastatrix refers to an observation made in the late 19th century in vineyards in France and other parts of vine-growing Europe. Healthy green leaves of vine plants suddenly turned red in midsummer, followed by the plant's drying and dying. In the 1860s la nouvelle maladie de la vigne was studied in affected vineyards in southern France. The French botanist Jules Émile Planchon and two other agricultural examiners unearthed dead vines, but couldn't find anything. Next, they inspected the roots of still healthy looking vines growing in neighborhood to the dead ones. They found those roots infected by pale-yellow bugs resembling winged termites. Maximillian Potter describes the then shocking news—of what the Planchon team found when they scanned the roots with magnifying glasses—as follows [4]:
As the team filed in their report, beneath the [magnifying] glass they found “not one, not ten, but hundreds, thousands” of tiny yellowish louses on the wood sucking the sap. Over the course of three days, every affected vineyard they visitied, in St.-Rémy, at Graveson, at Châteauneuf-du-Pape, among others, they found these insects, pucerons, which Planchon named Phylloxera vastatrix, meaning  “devastator of vines.”
This grapevine pest is today commonly called phylloxera or grape phylloxera. Its current scientific name is Daktulosphaira vitifoliae. Since its emergence as Phylloxera vastatrix it has been of considerable scientific interest and importance to viticultural enterprises [5].

Keywords: viticulture, entomolgy, insects, phylloxera plague, grapevine.

References and moreto explore
[1] phyllon [].
[2] xeros []
[3] vastatrix [ ].
[4] Maximillian Potter: Shadows in the Vineyard. Twelve, New York, first trade edition, July 2015; page 107.
[5] Astrid Forneck and Lars Huber: (A)sexual reproduction - a review of life cycles of grape phylloxera, Daktulosphaira vitifolia. Entomologica Experimentalis et Applicata, 2009, 131 , pp. 1-10. DOI: 10.1111/j.1570-7458.2008.00811.x.

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