Fungus Affecting Valley Grape Growers

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MISSION – A devastating disease is causing issues for grape growers in the Rio Grande Valley.

Jorge Jaber says he lost about 80 percent of his eight-acre grapevine to cotton root rot. He says it took a major toll on one business.

"They started to die, all of them. Five hundred or something like that," he tells CHANNEL 5 NEWS.

Bringing grapes and wine to the Valley is his lifelong passion, says Jaber.

"I've been drinking wine 60 years back. I'm 85 now," he says.

He says after researching for years on how to grow grapes locally, he grew his first vines in 2009 with no trouble.

"I didn't find one in bad conditions," says Jaber.

But this year is a different story.

Jaber says recently, the issue is getting tougher to deal with. He says most of his eight acres of vines fell victim to the disease.

He's tried various sprays and is even working with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, he says.

"I'm not going to, I don't want to quit only if it's something that's impossible," Jaber tells CHANNEL 5 NEWS.

Jaber says, for now, he plans to buy more grape vines from up north, bring them back down here and plant them in other fields.

According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, cotton root rot is more common in South Texas than other parts of the state.

The fungus gets its name from the cotton-like shape it takes and it can survive up to several years in the soil.

Experts say fighting the fungal disease is difficult. They say the best method is to use certain types of fungicide.


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