USDA Awards $6.7 Million To Stifle Spotted Wing Drosophila

USDA Awards $6.7 Million To Stifle Spotted Wing Drosophila

North Carolina State University has won a $6.7 million grant from the USDA to undertake research and grower education efforts aimed at better managing a major new pest that causes hundreds of millions of dollars in annual agricultural losses.

(Photo Credit: Elizabeth Beers, Washington State University)

(Photo Credit: Elizabeth Beers, Washington State University)

Under the four-year specialty crop grant from USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture, N.C. State University scientists will join with researchers and Extension specialists from across the nation to conduct on-farm tests aimed at finding new ways of effectively dealing with spotted wing drosophila, a tiny fruit fly that’s been causing big problems since it was first detected in North America in 2008.


They’ll also develop tactics and tools for predicting risks from the pest, along with educational materials to help growers make the most economically and environmentally sound management decisions.

N.C. State’s collaborators in the effort are from Michigan State, Oregon State, Cornell, and Rutgers universities, as well as the universities of Maine; Notre Dame; Georgia; California, Davis; and California, Berkeley; and  USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

Hannah Burrack, an associate professor and Extension specialist at N.C. State University who is a member of American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® magazines’ Editorial Advisory Board, is leading the grant-funded effort to develop better ways to manage spotted wing drosophila.

Others from NC State who are participating in the project are Max Scott of the Entomology Department, Zack Brown of the Agricultural and Resource Economics Department, Rhonda Conlon of Extension Information Technology, and Jean-Jacques Debois of the Southern Integrated Pest Management Center.

Burrack emphasized that spotted wing drosophila, (Drosophila suzukii), lays eggs in such valuable soft-skinned fruit as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and cherries. The eggs develop into larvae, leaving the fruit unmarketable.

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Tom Stevenson says:

Why on earth wasn’t this scourge quarantined in California when there was at least a chance of containing it? USDA refused to quarantine.

forbes morrell says:

Is there going to be a news letter on this subject and if so, how do we get continuing info?

Francis Bartolomeo says:

I had the swd pest for the first time this year. From which I determined we need more tools to do the job. Such as research to find preditors, diseases, systemic pesticides, additional chemicals and intervention by the government such as the state of Florida and California and how they are combating simular pests.If nothing is done we will lose the few chemicals that is available now byoveruse. The cycle from egg to adult is only 5 days .At times spraying has to be done on a 1 or 2 day schedule

Ron Buchanan says:

This year we did not see SWD in traps but they were in late red raspberries. I agree with Bartolomeo: spraying is as much a problem as the SWD. Re-entry and days before harvest adds to the problem as fruit. continues to ripen and over-ripen accentuating the losses. USDA has waited until a problem has become a stifling disaster.

Never mind managing this fly, we need to find a way to kill it. My husband and I had two 300 ft. rows of raspberries. We got the fly in our fall crop. I don’t think the 90 degree heat helped. We cut down one row, because we could not manage two. We picked all of the ripe berries for weeks and crushed them with our shoes, trying to get a handle on the disaster. We sprayed our compost pile because they were breeding there. We also cleaned up any dropped cherry tomatoes in the greenhouse. The fly loves the split tomatoes. We did all we could to stop the fly from laying eggs. My husband wants to cut down the wild grapes on the stone wall by the raspberry field next year. Friends that manage a apple orchard, abandoned their raspberries when they found the fly, leaving them to just increase in numbers. I think that was wrong. My husband sprayed once a week, but that was not enough. It got to the point that if we say a fly, he sprayed it. Not really ! He did spray once a day, or every two days with pyrethrum. He also had lights on his tractor so when he sprayed it was at night, to protect the bees. We had thought about planting a couple of blueberry rows, but whats the point. Until these guys figure something out, it will be to much work, or cost to much for the small farmers. I am 69 and my husband is 78. This past year was really hard physically and emotionally. Our beautiful raspberries were a mess, and I am worried about our neighbor that has a big blueberry field that he was going to pick for the first time next summer. I told him the news so he can be ready to do battle with the red eyed monster next summer.

Jim Maryinuk says:

Please keep me in the mix of the study results. I have been trying different techniques in my raspberry/ BlackBerry high tunnels. I don’t like to spray if I can use other methods of reducing or eliminating this rascal.

Bruce Carson says:

Jim, have you tried screening? New York growers have been refining a combination of exclusion screening and fixed spray systems which allow should allow for more precise and effective control. Contact the New York State Berry Growers Association for more details.