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phylloxera (GB)
phylloxera (F)
fillossera (I)
filoxera (ES)
filoxera (PO)
druifluis (N)

This most dangerous of all vine pests (bot. Dactylosphaera vitifolii) is an insect of the order plant lice (Homoptera), subordination aphids (Aphidina) and dwarf family (Phylloxeridae). The phylloxera affects only the grapevine, sucks on the leaves and / or the roots and releases their saliva into the juice pathways what Gallen (Growths), which then serve as egg laying and food. Due to different behavior patterns towards the Rebstock different types are suspected. The German biologist Dr. Carl Börner (1880-1953) distinguished between a less dangerous long-nosed and a more harmful short-nosed phylloxera. From the first infestation, it lasts as a result of subsequent effects nutrient deficiency and root rot usually a maximum of three years until the vine dies and is completely destroyed. French scientist Jules Émile Planchon (1823-1888) the phylloxera gave the appropriate name "Phylloxera vastatrix" (devastating louse) when it was identified in France in 1868.


The life cycle is strong from the infested vine species, namely Europäerrebe or Amerikanerrebe dependent. It takes place either in the form of a complete cycle or continuous cycle between the vine (above ground) and root (underground) or only on leaves (only above ground) or only roots (only underground) and thus a shortened cycle. There are parthenogenetic (Virgin generation from unfertilized egg cells) and sexual generations. A distinction is therefore made between the yellow-green 1.5 mm long aphid (Gallicola = leaf gall louse) and the yellow-brown 1.35 mm long red vine (Radicicola = root louse). The latter is much more dangerous since it is the one Xylem damages, which leads to water and nutrient deficiency. The infestation of leaves is usually not life-threatening. In the grape species there are some that form both leaf and root galls, but the root galls do not form leaf galls, and the leaf galls do not form root galls. The group of the perfect resistant Vine species form neither leaf galls nor root galls.

Aphid - aphids and mother louse with egg-laying

In Europe, only the propagation through the root lice occurs, while the full cycle takes place only in America. Only in the above-ground cycle do offspring with new genetic material arise, since there are only males and females here. In root lice, there are only females that reproduce parthenogenetically and lay 600 eggs. Young hatched do not immediately attack the roots, but hibernate deep in the ground. In the spring, the roots are pierced with the trunk (half the length of the body) and the saliva is introduced into the tissue. As an almost panicky defense reaction of the vine, gnarled growths develop. The lice then feed on these soft structures and soak them up. The pest can only live through the formation of bile, because the hard roots themselves could not be gnawed at directly.

Phylloxera - root aphids with egg plant

In Central Europe there are four to six generations of phylloxera each year. The last generation of young lice (Hiemalen) form the wintering form. Towards the end of midsummer, nymphs develop, which are larvae with wing tips. These leave the ground and develop into winged phylloxera (Sexuparae) after their last moult. Thanks to their ability to fly, they can quickly spread to other vineyards over long distances. They lay small male and large female eggs on the perennial bark of the vine, from which the nodular sex animals (Sexuales) hatch. These cannot take in food and only have the task of copulation during their only eight days of life.

Phylloxera at various stages and female phylloxera fly

The mated females lay a single fertilized olive green winter egg in a bark crack. From this spring the Maypole lice hatch, which form leaf galls only in American vine species (Vitis vinifera is resistant to the leaves) and lay up to 1,200 eggs. Two larval species hatch from this after eight to ten days. Some form leaf galls again, especially on younger leaves. They multiply parthenogenetically with six to eight generations a year. The others are leaf-born root lice and look for the vine roots in the ground. There they complement the underground development cycle or start it again. A wintered phylloxera with 1,000 eggs results in around 25 trillion offspring by autumn. The tremendously complex cycle or life cycle of leaf vine and root vine is shown in the graph:

Phylloxera - life cycle (Geisenheim)

Nodosities and tuberosities

A distinction is made between two types of roots and thus different effects from the infestation. If there is less infestation, the young, woodless root tips are pierced first. The resulting root gall is called Nodositäten, They occur not only in the European, but also in most American grape species, but they are relatively harmless and do not lead to destruction. With larger infestations, however, the older, woody roots are pierced and as a result the tuberosities educated. These are much more dangerous because they can penetrate much more deeply into the roots' vascular system. Certain American vine species are immune to both, which is the most resistant Vitis cinerea,

Resistance of certain grape species

The rhizomes of some American vines are resistant to phylloxera because they have adapted over millions of years. The resistance results from three circumstances. The vines react passively to the roots, form little to none Gallen and thus remove the basis for multiplication from the pests. Second, the marrow rays in the roots are arranged much more closely than in the European vines, so that the knots can only penetrate superficially. And thirdly, a protective cork fabric forms at the point of tapping. This prevents the ingress of moisture, bacteria and mushrooms that are used in the non-resistant vines root rot and thus leads to complete annihilation. But they can also very well American vines be infested above ground, but this is by no means so devastating and only causes greater damage in the case of severe infestation. Only under particularly favorable climatic conditions Europeans Vines infested with aphid, therefore it has little meaning in Central Europe. However, most American vines are susceptible to the aphid as well hybrids,

Origin and discovery of phylloxera

The phylloxera comes from North America, where it occurs in large areas on the east coast. It was here in 1854 by entomologist Asa Fitch (1809-1879) discovered and first described a year later as an "insignificant insect" called "Pemphigus vitifolius". This seemingly harmless description was correct, because phylloxera is actually an occasional pest. It is only through larger areas of vine that widespread distribution up to an epidemic is possible. This situation was by no means the case on the east coast of North America. Here the insect could not cause much damage because of the number of Wild vines has always been limited in one place, the soil conditions do not favor propagation and, moreover, many of the American vines are more or less resistant to the roots. In contrast to other natural events, which also take place without human intervention, the spread of phylloxera was only possible through massive human intervention in the ecosystem with large-scale monocultures. But even that would not have been enough for a worldwide distribution, but was only brought about by the trade in contaminated vines.

Occurrence in Europe

Shortly before phylloxera the real one came over England in 1845 mildew to Europe - the first of the four terrible Danes gifts from North America. The phylloxera followed about five to ten years later, of course, an exact date can no longer be determined because the damage was only visible a few years later. From 1850, American vines were exported to England and France in large numbers ornamental vines and for crossing purposes and with them unnoticed introduced phylloxera to Europe. However, this had also happened earlier and phylloxera has existed in America since time immemorial. So why hadn't she appeared in Europe much earlier? There is a very simple explanation for this. In the sailing ship times, the pest had not survived the journey, which lasted around ten weeks and longer, while crossing the sea intact in the short time of 10 to 14 days with the fast steamships.

Around the year 1858 (according to other sources only 1863) at Arles in the Provence an inexplicable vine mortality and initially a fungal disease or frost damage supposed. Last but not least, God's anger and punishment for the sins of time had to be the cause. When the dead vines were dug up, it was found that the entire root system had practically disappeared. Due to the tiny size of the insect, it was initially not recognized as the cause. In 1868 a commission was established with the vineyard owner Gaston Bazille (1819-1894), the gardener Félix Sahut and the physicist and botanist Jules Émile Planchon (1823-1888), who was able to quickly identify the cause of the mysterious vine death. However, the origin of the pest from North America remained completely unclear for a long time.

The phylloxera has spread slowly, but steadily in almost all European countries almost exclusively through the contaminated vine material. She came to Austria-Hungary in 1867 (according to another source in 1872) as the director of the Klosterneuburg Wine Institute August-Wilhelm Freiherr von Babo (1827-1894) from Germany was given American vines. It was first discovered in Germany in 1874 near Bonn in the Annaberg gardens. But the pest did not reach Würzburg until 1902, the Moselle in 1907 and finally Baden in 1913. The other stations were Portugal 1871, Turkey 1871, Switzerland 1874, Italy 1875 (South Tyrol only 1901), Spain 1878 and Greece 1898. By the beginning of the 20th century roughly 75% of all vineyards in Europe were destroyed.

A catastrophe of unimaginable proportions, because viticulture was of great economic importance in Europe, in Italy, for example, 80 percent of the population lived from it. The material damage was the same as that of the First World War. But also the New world was badly affected, because vines imported from France and infected with phylloxera followed in 1873 California and there, just a few years later, the now blossoming viticulture was paralyzed. Eventually, the pest was added in 1877 Australia, as well as 1885 after Algeria. New Zealand and South Africa introduced and was now represented on all continents. The common danger forced the countries to cooperate, which began in 1877 with an "international phylloxera conference". In 1881, a phylloxera convention with rules for the import and export of vines and border controls was passed between the German Reich, France, Switzerland, Austria-Hungary and Portugal. At that time, the life cycle of phylloxera was already researched and well known:

Phylloxera - Development cycle - Humboldt University Berlin around 1880

Measures against the pest

The French government formed a commission as early as 1870, with Louis as the best-known chairman from 1885 Pasteur (1822-1895) and after him Jules Lavalle (1820-1880). The price was set at 20,000 francs and later increased to an incredible 300,000. A total of 700 proposals were submitted over the course of seven years, of which around half were actually tried. However, the price never had to be paid. Treatments were carried out with silkworm droppings, liquid manure and cancer extract, scraping off the bark or planting various defense plants such as hemp or valerian. Modest partial successes were achieved by flooding the vineyards with water and the so-called Kultural method, that is, soil injections with carbon disulphide.

The problem was that even recognized scientists made false and sometimes adventurous assumptions and passionately represented them. Entomologist Victor Antoine Signoret (1816-1889) said that phylloxera was not the cause but the effect. And the well-known wine specialist Dr. Jules Guyot (1807-1872) assumed the cause was too sharp pruning, Even abstruse and completely ineffective methods like that of the Roman winegrowers Pliny the Elder (23-79) borrowed from burying a dead toad under each vine, tapping the vineyard floor to drive the insect into the sea, introducing electricity into the earth and watering the vine with white wine were unsuccessfully tried.

Phylloxera fighter

Léopold had already in 1869 Laliman (1817-1897) from Bordeaux recognized that some American vines were immune to phylloxera (but this is also attributed to others). At a congress in Beaune, the Gaston Bazille mentioned above proposed the method of making the tops (fine rice) of Europeans Vines on the lower parts (rhizomes) of phylloxera-resistant American vines graft. This was from Gustave Foex (1844-1906), who had already suspected in 1868 that the phylloxera had come from outside Europe. This was then confirmed by Jules Émile Planchon (1823-1888) through a study trip to America in 1873. He met there with the entomologist Charles V. Riley (1843-1895) who demonstrated that the French insect was identical to the American one. Riley was one of the first to advocate grafting on American rhizomes. But this will also be the botanist Georg Engelmann (1809-1884) awarded. So who really was “the first” is of course no longer to be determined and all of the above can be safely regarded as the saviors of European winegrowing before phylloxera.

Phylloxera - portraits by Charles V. Riley, Pierre Viala, Émile Planchon, Georg Engelmann

the solution of the problem

From 1873 to 1876 millions of documents were shipped mainly to France and other countries, most of them from Missouri originated. Many of these were creations by the breeder Hermann Hunter (1844-1895). In practice, however, many of the American rhizomes did not tolerate European soil, especially limestone soil, which is rare in vineyards in America. First it was Vitis riparia used as underlay, but was unsuitable for limestone soil. That's why she was using the Vitis berlandieri crossed. Finally, in 1887, the French Ministry of Agriculture appointed Dr. Pierre Viala (1859-1936) headed delegation sent to America to find suitable documents. The development took decades and for a long time two competing camps faced each other, the "Sulfurists" who swore to fight against chemicals and the "Americanists" who preferred refinement.

At the end of this directional dispute, the refiners finally prevailed. There have been many of them in the past documents developed for different requirements. An important criterion is a high resistance to phylloxera. As finishing designated method was and still is the only solution. But it was very expensive, because at that time there were over ten billion vines in France alone. Therefore, they tried with moderate success to solve the problem intersections from Americans with Europeans Vines or American vines to solve among themselves and to use as an alternative for wine production. Because the American or French hybrids were insufficiently resistant to phylloxera and, moreover, wines of certain species were unpleasant for European tastes Foxton,

Countries / areas without phylloxera

The third catastrophe hit European winegrowing, especially during the first successes with refined vines. Paradoxically, the documents introduced for the rescue from the second catastrophe became the wrong man in 1878 mildew imported from North America. And as the sad end of the truly dark century for winegrowing, it was the beginning of the 1880s black rot imported from America. It took the longest for phylloxera to take effective measures in all countries. Some countries have been spared, at least in part, in certain areas. For example, there are some Greek islands in the Aegean (Crete, Paros, Rhodes, Santorini, Cyprus), as well Afghanistan. Argentina. Armenia. Australia. Chile. China. India. Canary Islands and Pakistan,

Especially vineyards with sandy soil are not infected because the pest cannot exist there. Likewise, the insect cannot survive at high altitudes. Individual vineyards or vineyards with ungrafted There are vines in many countries, including Germany and Austria. But nowadays, processing is common everywhere, it is estimated that this accounts for 85% of all vines worldwide. But the phylloxera is still not completely defeated, because a new variant (biotype B) appeared in America in the 1990s, which has already destroyed many vineyards in California and New Zealand. At the beginning of the 1960s, California’s recommendation caused major problems University of California (Davis) for the pad AxR 1 who was too weakly resistant to phylloxera. All the vineyards created with it had to be cleared again.

Additional information

Further extensive information in connection with phylloxera is in addition to the above links (hyperinks), especially in the keywords American vines. Europeans Vines. hybrids. Nodositäten. Pre-Phylloxera. tuberosities. Underlay & rootstock and finishing contain.

Aphid Claw: By Joachim Schmid, Geisenheim , Self-photographed, CC BY 3.0 de , Link und Link
Root phylloxera: By Joachim Schmid, Geisenheim, - Self-photographed , CC BY 3.0 de , Link und Link
Aphids and phylloxera fly: LWG Bayern
Life cycle: Geisenheim Research Center, B. Loskill

Draft cycle: By Unknown, Humboldt University Berlin, GFDL 1.2 , Link

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