OSU educates growers about invasive, fruit-damaging fly

The spotted wing drosophila lays its eggs in fruit that is still on plants.
The spotted wing drosophila lays its eggs in undamaged fruit that is still attached to plants. (Illustration by Erik Simmons.)

Growers learn to predict its population, monitor its presence

The spotted wing drosophila fly is a threat to Oregon’s berry and cherry industries. Its larvae feed on ripening fruit, making it unmarketable. Native to Southeast Asia, the small insect was first detected in the Willamette Valley in 2009.

OSU researchers and Extension specialists responded quickly. With help from a $5.7 million grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, they have developed monitoring strategies and educated growers, processors and distributors about the fly. They've also produced publications on how to look for the pest, protect fruit and recognize damage. Additionally, they provide growers with up-to-date online information that allows them to assess the risk of infestation and potential crop loss. Scientists have also tested pesticides to manage the fly and shared their findings with the public. Researchers noted that in 2011, producers who followed the recommended monitoring protocols avoided excess pesticide applications.
Oregon ranks third nationally in the production of sweet cherries and blueberries, and first in black raspberries. It sold $76 million of cherries and $108 million of blueberries in 2012. If the fly damaged 20 percent of Oregon's cherry and berry crops, that would equate to $31 million in lost revenue based on 2008 sales figures.

Source: Linda Brewer, manager of the spotted wing drosophila project at OSU; Oregon Department of Agriculture's Facts and Figures brochure; economic impact report by the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics at the University of California

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