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Phylloxera attacks the roots of grape vines and eventually kills the plant.  It can take up to ten years from the time a plant is infested with phylloxera until the vine finally dies.  During that period of decline, the quality of the grapes produced by the vine remains high though the quantity of fruit produced diminishes each year.  

The Phylloxera is a root louse and is so small it is nearly microscopic. In the second half of the 19th century (the late 1800s) Phylloxera appears to have been accidentally imported from its native North America into Europe. When Phylloxera arrived in Europe, it nearly destroyed the vineyards there.  The terrible destruction was only halted when biologist working in Texas discovered that it was possible to use the root stock of Vitis Labrusca (native American grapes) and graft the Vitis Vinifera (wine grapes) grape vines on them. Since Phylloxera does not attack the roots of the native American grapes, the vineyards could be replanted with the new grafted root stocks.

Phylloxera is now a problem in California, New Zealand and some parts of South America.  Rootstocks like AXR1 that were developed around 1970 were planted because they solved a number of fungus and disease issues. Unfortunately, the fact that those rootstocks are attractive to Phylloxera means that they are being replanted.