Esca is a fungal disease that is hitting the Loire Valley vineyards hard. Many winemakers have lost thousands of vines over the past few years. There is no currently available effective treatment for the vines once they have the disease and it has the potential to turn into a crisis of Phylloxera scale proportions (when at the end of the 19th century a root aphid which introduced a fungal disease nearly wiped out the French wine industry).
Part of the problem is that the disease is actually caused by a group of closely related fungi. The only treatment that kills them, sodium arsenite, is a known carcinogen and so toxic to all living things it is too hazardous to use and has been banned. At present it isn't even sure how the fungi are transmitted -- whether they are soil, water or air borne. However their means of transport, they enter the plant at the level of the graft, and affect the root stock. The vine reacts by blocking off its vascular system, but the fungi propogate rapidly and very quickly the plant kills itself by blocking so many of its sap runs that it starves. Typically the leaves turn yellow with a characteristic pattern.
I picked 5.5 kg of sweet yellow cherries from the enormous tree on our orchard neighbours' plot. We ran into her the other day on the way to the pool and she suggested I help myself, although warned me that they were full of asticots (maggots). It's true that some of the fruit had the tell tale shadow under the translucent skin that indicates it is infested with cherry fruit fly. However, most of them are pretty well perfect. I've set aside some to eat fresh and Simon has make an Asian sauce (basically plum sauce but made with yellow cherries instead of yellow plums). I'll take a small jar around to her in a few days. Even if she doesn't cook Chinese food, it will go well with cheese.
Yellow cherries aren't grown commercially, but they are widely grown in gardens here. The theory is that the birds don't notice they are ripe and ignore them. I don't know what variety this one is. It turns butter yellow when ripe. Our yellow cherries are Coeur de Pigeon and Napoléon, both of which get a rosy blush when ripe, so the birds aren't fooled at all. They also ripen much earlier and it seems to me that this is the real key. Birds get an awful lot of early and mid-season cherries, but leave the late ones. I think they've got tired of cherries and have moved on to something else.