This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The fact that about two hundred and eighty tons of California grapes were received and sold in the markets of Philadelphia during the past season, is sufficient to show that the grape interest in this country is increasing in importance, and to lead to the hope that the discouragement which the Missouri grape growers must feel after four consecutive unfavorable seasons must needs soon give way before brighter prospects, that it seems to me are necessarily in store for him. One thing is sure, namely, that the interest manifested abroad in our American grape vines does not flag. These vines are constantly discussed in the foreign horticultural journals, while one periodical entitled La Yigne Ameri-caine (the American Vine), is entirely devoted to them. It is a source of no little satisfaction to me that the varieties which I first recommended seven years ago are, in the main, those still sought for and used by the French sufferers from phylloxera, as stock on which to graft their viniferas. It is further interesting to observe that the grounds that I took in regard to grafting above ground, in my Seventh Report, pp. 108 to 116, are justified by the experience had during the last few years in France. Such grafting is found to be quite practicable, notwithstanding the want of faith shown in it by our earlier am-pelographers. I sincerely hope that this question of grafting the vine above ground as a means of evading the injuries of phylloxera or of improving such varieties as do not succeed upon their own roots will be discussed by your society, so as to bring out whatever experience on the subject the Missouri grape growers have had of late.
The fears which I expressed in ray Seventh Report as to the danger of the introduction and spread of the phylloxera in California, have also been more than justified, since many vineyards have already been seriously injured or totally destroyed by the insect. I am glad to be able to confirm in this connection the truth of the statement of Mr. P. J. Berckmans, of Augusta, Ga., namely, that this insect does not occur in that locality. While spending a few days with him last September I was able to verify its non-occurrence there; and here let me remark that however much contempt a Missourian may have for the Scuppernong, no one can witness the prolificacy, or experience the delicacy and sweetness of such varieties as Tender-pulp and Thomas, as they grow in that region, without having a due appreciation of their value for the Southern States.
Regarding the range of phylloxera, it had often been asserted that around Washington the root insect was not to be found, yet I have found it extremely abundant both in the vineyards of the District and of those just across the line in Virginia, some of the latter suffering to such an extent that the crop was a failure, though the owners were unsuspicious of the cause.
After reviewing in my Eighth Report all that was then known of the habits and natural history of the grape phylloxera, I drew certain practical conclusions to the effect that complete knowledge of its habits, instead of simplifying its destruction, showed that it was almost if not quite hopeless to expect its destruction by any possible or practical means, and rendered preventive measures all the more urgent. I expressed my doubt as to the value of decortication of the vines and the burning of the bark in Winter, or any means which aimed at the killing of the Winter eggs upon the branches and canes of the vines. Diligent search had failed to reveal these Winter eggs in anything like the quantity one might expect, and the fact remained that the insect could go on propagating under ground for at least four years without the necessary intervention of the impregnated egg. Further researches made since confirm me in the belief that the normal mode of hibernation of the species is as a young larva upon the roots.
From the results of the deliberations of the International Phylloxera Congress, held last Summer at Lausanne, France, it was conclusively proved that decortication, as I had anticipated, was of little or no avail.
Before leaving the question of phylloxera, let me briefly refer to certain theories first propounded by Prof. A. C. Cook, and that have been extensively promulgated daring the past two years. As to the relation of phylloxera and grape-rot I took occasion last Spring to protest, in the New York Tribune, against the supposed connection between the two, and it will not be out of place to repeat the reasons : "Already in 1871, when I first announced the presence of phylloxera on the roots of American vines, and explained the injury which it caused, there were writers who, not content with the simple facts, went much further and asserted that this little insect must also be the cause of mildew, rot, etc. Prof. Cook has jumped to similar false conclusions, and has, during the present Winter, promulgated before various societies his belief that the phylloxera is the cause of black-rot in grapes. This is sensation, not science, and it is to be deplored, coming from the source it does. The phylloxera occurs in most grape-growing sections of the country east of the Rocky Mountains, and will quite naturally be found on vines on which the fruit has rotted.
But an experience covering several years, and the examination of hundreds of vines with rot of fruit and without it, enables me to deny the assertion that the insect is more numerous on the former than on the latter. The phylloxera disease has its own peculiar characteristics, which are at once distinguished from other vine diseases by those understanding it. There are also very conclusive reasons for discarding the views of Prof. Cook. 1 - In France, where the phylloxera has been so very destructive, the black-rot has not accompanied nor followed it. 2 - The rot, so far as I have observed it, is no worse on the susceptible than on the more resistant varieties, while many cases might be adduced of healthy vines, and those least affected with the insect, suffering most from rot. 3 - On account of the three successive wet summers of 1875, 1876 and 1877, in this part of the country, (Missouri,) the phylloxera has been less numerous and less injurious than at any time since 1871, and many vines that were suffering near to death have recuperated.
Yet no year since the time mentioned has black-rot been worse than it was last Summer".