Fly pest can gain the upper hand without vigilance

02/06/2014 02:01:00 PM
Renee Stern

"You have to scout every day," she says.

Picked fruit goes directly to an on-site inspection table, where any maggot finds can be linked quickly to a specific location that's then stripped for disposal.

Miller says the ripening patterns for some varieties put them at greater risk.

Spring High ripens early. To have enough harvested fruit to market, she may need to leave fruit on the bushes a little longer than the three-day picking cycle she strives for.

Farthing berries can take up to five days to gain full color on all sides. The longer hang time for both varieties provides spotted wing drosophila more opportunity to attack.

Frequent, thorough harvesting helps minimize spotted wing drosophila's threat, but weather and labor availability can interfere, Burrack says.

Removing or destroying culls reduces additional attractants from fields, Sial says.

But striving for a thoroughly clean floor may not be sustainable, Liburd says. "Flies won't go after [fallen fruit] when ripe fruit is on the plant," he says.

That's not a risk Miller is willing to take. She has workers rake whenever she spots a significant amount of fruit on the ground.

She's also switching over to weed fabric with new or renewed plantings; about half her 30-acre farm is now under ground cover as a protection against the pest pupating on site.

"We'll see this coming year if it makes a difference," she says.

The growers and researchers say they're pinning hopes on work to better understand spotted wing drosophila's biology, from finding pheromone lures to identifying natural enemies and other biological controls.

"It's not a no-win battle, but it sure is going to be a long battle," Cornelius says. "I can see this as something my grandchildren will be fighting."

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