Beating back the bug, for now


0810_ATS03A wet and cold growing season was bad news for Oregon’s fruit crops, except in the battle against a destructive fruit pest.

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0810_ATS04
The drosophila is worrisome because it attacks ripe, healthy fruit. Fruits attacked include apple, blueberry, cane berry, cherry, grape, peach, persimmon, plum and strawberry.
// PHOTOS COURTESY OF OREGON DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

A wet and cold growing season was bad news for Oregon’s fruit crops, except in the battle against a destructive fruit pest. Last year, one-fourth of the organic and non-commerical growers of blueberries, raspberries and peaches reported loses due to the spotted wing drosophila. There was minimal damage to the commerical berry industry. This Asian fruit fly, which uniquely attacks fruit on the tree, was dealt a blow this April when the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave Oregon a $2.5 million grant and the state chipped in $225,000 in emergency funds. The money primarily funded Oregon State University researchers and some farmers to trap and monitor the nasty larvae. Then farmers crossed their fingers as crops began to ripen.

So far, there’s been “no conventional crop damage this year,” says OSU researcher Amy Dreves.

The cool spring also helped control the pest population. Wasco County, the location of the biggest 2009 outbreak, has had no sightings this year. Only one female drosophila was found in Hood River County.

Farms are controlling the pest, but backyard trees pose a threat. These trees are rarely sprayed and some larvae have been spotted.

“I am moderately optimistic. This is not an insurmountable problem,” says Dan Hilburn, Oregon Department of Agriculture plant division administrator.

Fly damage this season is low, but researchers and farmers are still worried as the days get warmer and drosophila traps get fuller.

JOSEY BARTLETT



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