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A treatment for Esca disease that heals more than 80% of affected vine plants

An organic paste, developed by three Tuscan agronomists, regresses the disease. Experimentation from Montalcino to save old vines

Among the diseases that can affect the vine, Esca disease, in the last 15 years, has become among the most problematic, because to date there are no effective remedies: plants attacked by the families of fungi that colonize the lymphatic vessels, where they create real masses that progressively go to clog them, causing their almost instantaneous death, must first be uprooted and then burned to prevent the spread of the disease. Attempts are made to work more on prevention, which consists mainly of treatments with antagonistic fungi, but these do not solve the problem.
Every year, at every longitude, Esca disease causes very serious damage: the effects on the vine are extremely noticeable, in July-August the leaves turn yellow and red, just as they do in the fall, but in the case of the disease the leaves remain attached to the shoot, the vine dries out very quickly, and even the grapes remain green, unripe, shrivel and dry out. All just during the peak vegetative period of the vineyard, so the diseased, yellow-brown plants can be easily noticed.

A drama that, in California alone, is quantifiable at $1.5 billion each year, according to a study by Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Easy to imagine that the scale, in Europe, is even greater, especially for those who grow Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese, varieties that are particularly susceptible to the Esca disease. It is no coincidence, then, that it was three Tuscan agronomists - Alberto Passeri, Mario Guerrieri and Roberto Ercolani - who decided in 2017 to collaborate and join efforts to test a cure, developing an organic product and an administration protocol that immediately provided striking results, with more than 80% of treated plants being cured. It is a totally organic paste, which is applied to a vertical cut caused to the trunk of an already heavily compromised vine, where disease lesions are evident. The paste remains on the plant all winter, and in the spring the vine begins to vegetate again, presenting healthy leaves, a remarkable vegetative drive and excellent quality fruit, virtually identical to that of healthy vines.

The first results, which in prospect allow winemakers in the great wine territories to be able to save and safeguard the most precious vine heritage, that of the old vines from which the best wines are born, encouraged the three agronomists (Alberto Passeri, Mario Guerrieri and Roberto Ercolani) to embark on an even more rigorous scientific path. They created a startup - “Escafix” - devoted to research and experimentation, and addressed the Crea - Council for Research in Agriculture, a point of reference for research and experimentation in agriculture in Italy, and at the same time they registered the Italian Patent for the protocol. That, after a path of experimentation that started in Montalcino, between the rows of La Gerla (followed, over time, by Querciabella, in Chianti Classico and Maremma, Castello di Monsanto in Chianti Classico, Banfi, Caparzo, Ferrero and Fanti in Montalcino, Mantellassi and Castello di Montepò - Biondi Santi in Morellino di Scansano, while Fattoria San Leonardo in Trentino and Castello di Fonterutoli in Chianti Classico are in the waiting phase), has led to important results, monitored through a final report by Crea that, in essence, promotes, with top marks, the project, highlighting eight key results achieved: 85% cured plants on Sangiovese vines, 78-80% on Sauvignon vines; lower mortality present in vineyards treated with Escafix product; increased vegetation of treated plants compared to untreated even healthy plants; grapes of cured vines with characteristics identical to those of healthy plants; greatly improved water management of cured plants; lower incidence of infections in the vineyard with the passage of years since the first treatment; improved foliar transpiration; photosynthesis restored to the level of that of healthy plants.

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