Spotted Wing Drosophila ‘Stars’ at National Berry Conference

EDITOR’S NOTE: Though there weren’t any known to be in attendance, spotted wing drosophila (SWD) was definitely the star of this past December’s annual North American Berry Conference. The feared pest was also a hot topic during the berry and cherry — both sweet and tart — seminars held at the conference that immediately followed in Grand Rapids, MI, the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market Expo. I attended and tweeted (#BerryConf and #GLEXPO) from both conferences. Meanwhile, Senior Editor Christina Herrick attended the Washington State Tree Fruit Association’s and Almond Board of California’s annual conferences, and she tweeted from both (#WAHort and #AlmondConf). If you ever want updates from an industry conference you can’t attend, check out @dave_wfg_avg or @HerrickAFG. Here is a sampling of my tweets from the berry conference.

  • At North American Berry Conference in Grand Rapids, MI #BerryConf: Grower Gary Bardenhagen of Lake Leelanau, MI doesn’t chemically fumigate.
  • Bardenhagen: Chemical fumigation only good for one year. Biofumigation is effective, and more of a long- term solution.
  • Bardenhagen: Top challenge by far is spotted wing drosophila (SWD). No solution in sight. But labor is running a close second.
  • Bardenhagen: Best opportunity for a young grower is in fresh market fruit, specifically berries.
  • Britt Burton-Freeman, Illinois Institute of Technology Director of Nutrition Research: “My biggest challenge is getting people to eat more berries.”
  • Burton-Freeman: Healthfulness has become a big consideration for consumers, after only taste and price. Good for berry growers.
  • Burton-Freeman: Blackberries and raspberries have a lot of fiber, more than double that of apples or bananas.
  • Burton-Freeman: Eating strawberries has an immediate impact on insulin resistance. This helps prevent transition to diabetes.
  • Michigan State University Entomologist Rufus Isaacs on SWD: Exclusion netting can help prevent pests.
  • Isaacs on SWD: Exclusion netting can be added to high tunnels. The key is to keep modifying the system until it works for you.
  • Isaacs on SWD: Increasing harvest frequency from every three days to every day can have a huge impact on detectable larvae levels.
  • Isaacs on SWD: Use two picking buckets toward end of season, one for ripe fruit, one for over-ripe. All fruit must go.
  • Isaacs on SWD: It’s not the end of IPM, but it does mean a big adjustment. Exclusion netting and sanitation can help an awful lot.
  • Grower/netting distributor says if you want to use exclusion netting on your berries to prevent SWD, order it (ASAP).
  • Annemiek Schilder of Michigan State University on moving away from chemical control of caneberry diseases: Integrated approach is critical.
  • Schilder: Sustainable caneberry growing starts with disease-resistant cultivars that have been verified clean of diseases.
  • Schilder: Consider high tunnels, because if you can reduce moisture, you can much more easily prevent diseases.
  • Schilder: Key to biofungicides is they often must be applied more frequently. And if tank-mixing, beware of incompatibility.
  • Schilder: Biofungicides can be expensive, and if applied more often, watch your costs. “If you go broke, it’s not sustainable.”
  • University of Arkansas Distinguished Professor of Horticulture John Clark: Primocane used to mean vegetative, but not any more.
  • Clark: First Primocane-fruiting blackberry found in wild in Ashland, VA, in 1949. It was designated ‘Hillquist.’
  • Clark: First group of Primocane-fruiting (PF) blackberry selections, 14 plants, made in Ark. on Sept. 27, 1997. Fruit was awful.
  • Clark: Sent 2 two selections to USDA Breeder Chad Finn in Oregon, where they developed into high-yielding varieties w/great fruit.
  • Clark: Those were developed into what are now a dozen successful varieties, including the “Prime-Ark” series.
  • Clark: Enhanced quality will drive consumption and sales. The future for PF blackberries looks “SOMEKINDAMIGHTYFINE!!!!”
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