Tiny pest insect casts costly shadow over Oregon’s small fruit industry
Quick response and collaborative detective work helped contain this sudden invasion
The spotted wing drosophila fly is a threat to Oregon’s small and stone fruit 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.
In response, Oregon State University researchers and Extension specialists organized a Pacific Northwest team of scientists. With help from a $5.7 million grant, researchers have developed monitoring strategies and educated growers, processors, and distributors about the fly. They've also described the fly's genome and produced publications on how to look for the pest, protect fruit, and recognize damage to it. 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 combat the fly and shared their findings with the public. They are also evaluating control strategies that don't use pesticides. 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 raspberries. It sold $80 million of sweet cherries and $74 million of blueberries in 2011. In the absence of detection and control measures, economists project a potential loss of $31 million per year to Oregon's small and stone fruit industry.
Source: Linda Brewer, manager of the spotted wing drosophila project at OSU; OSU Extension's 2011 Oregon County and State Agricultural Estimates report