Tiny fly is big trouble for berry growers

Jan 07, 2013 by Mary Woodsen
The invasive spotted wing drosophila destroying a raspberry.

(Phys.org)—A tiny fruit fly, native to Asia, has become big trouble for raspberries, strawberries, cherries and blueberries coast to coast in the U.S. So Cornell researchers are zeroing in on ways to combat the invasive spotted wing drosophila—SWD for short. SWD is poorly understood and highly destructive.

"That's a terrible combination," says Julie Carroll, the (IPM) coordinator for the New York State IPM Program, based at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES) in Geneva, N.Y.

SWD took up residence in California a few short years ago; last year, it caused up to $1 billion in nationwide crop and job losses, according to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.

"In my 30-plus years in the blueberry business, this is the worst problem I've seen yet," says grower and U.S. Council board member Dennis Doyle. Meanwhile, many raspberry growers had to abandon fall plantings of what had long been a trouble-free crop.

Although SWD had troubled growers in the Hudson Valley in 2011, it is now just about everywhere in the state, says Greg Loeb, professor of entomology at NYSAES. "Some growers lost 100 percent of their crops," he says. "And those losses weren't just isolated incidents. This new pest is a serious threat."

While most fruit flies "infest fruit that's already past its prime," and unmarketable, "SWD attacks fruit just as it ripens, and you can't always see the damage until it's too late," Loeb says. And because SWD is so new, he adds, scientists' knowledge of it and how to manage it is rife with yawning gaps.

Loeb, Carroll and Laura McDermott, a Cornell Cooperative Extension small-fruit specialist in eastern New York, convened a daylong meeting of 50 researchers and growers from across the Northeast and from the Canadian provinces Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia this past November. The attendees reported to and learned from each other, then listed and voted on every possible research, regulatory and educational angle (79 altogether) they could take to tackle SWD. The top research priorities included repellants, attract-and-kill techniques and overwintering biology, among others.

Ideally, researchers will find biological controls—diseases or parasites that prey on SWD alone. "But that kind of work takes years. Until then we've got to devise the best possible combination of lures, trap crops and low-toxicity sprays," says Dale-Ila Riggs, president of the New York State Berry Growers Association, which helps promote collaboration between researchers and growers.

Explore further: Himalayan Viagra fuels caterpillar fungus gold rush

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Berry growers cautioned about new insect pest

Mar 28, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Late last summer, a single fruit fly dropped into a vinegar trap in the Hudson Valley, alerting extension specialists to spotted wing drosophila's (SWD) arrival to New York state. This tiny ...

Invasive fruit fly found in North Carolina

Oct 19, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A potentially important invasive insect species – the fruit fly Drosophila suzukii, or spotted wing Drosophila (SWD) – winged its way to North and South Carolina this summer. The insect has the ...

Discovery may lead to better lure to detect fruit fly

Aug 10, 2012

(Phys.org) -- A certain species of yeast that UC Davis researchers found in "almost all" their samples of raspberries and cherries infested by the spotted-wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) may lead to a b ...

Southern farmers realize profits from highbush blueberries

Jun 30, 2008

Southern highbush blueberries are emerging as an important fruit crop in Georgia, but experienced farmers say the fruit can be a challenge to grow. To determine if the blueberry shows true promise as a profitable ...

Recommended for you

Is fleet diversity key to sustainable fisheries?

3 hours ago

Concern about fisheries is widespread around the world. Over the past several decades, a robust discussion has taken place concerning how to manage fisheries better to benefit ecosystems and humans. Much of the discussion ...

Strange, fanged deer persists in Afghanistan

4 hours ago

More than 60 years after its last confirmed sighting, a strange deer with vampire-like fangs still persists in the rugged forested slopes of northeast Afghanistan according to a research team led by the Wildlife ...

Captive rhinos exposed to urban rumbles

5 hours ago

The soundtrack to a wild rhinoceros's life is wind passing through the savannah grass, birds chirping, and distant animals moving across the plains. But a rhinoceros in a zoo listens to children screaming, cars passing, and ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.