Oregon State entomologists develop organic product to control fruit pest

OSU Extension horticulture entomologist Vaughn Walton shows the patent-pending commercial application known as Decoy

The invasive spotted wing drosophila (SWD) first arrived in Oregon in 2009. While its fruit fly cousins lay their eggs in overripe fruit, this insect lays eggs in berries, cherries and other soft fruits as they begin to ripen. The developing larvae eat into fruit marketability. In Oregon alone, the flies threaten berry and cherry crops valued at more than $268 million in 2017.

Oregon State University entomologists have been working for a number of years to develop a non-toxic SWD disruptor that significantly reduces crop damage. The result of that work, a patent-pending commercial application known as Decoy, has resulted in a 67% reduction in damage, on average. For blueberries it’s close to 90% in certain time periods. For strawberries it’s 86%, and in wine grapes it’s about 50%.

That efficacy is comparable with pesticides, but it has no insecticide in it at all, making it environmentally friendly.

Gabriella Tait, a postdoctoral research associate in OSU Extension professor and horticultural entomologist Vaughn Walton’s lab, helped originate the technology and is working toward cost-effective application and delivery methods.

“We are essentially producing an economic benefit because of the combined lower cost of labor, and we are increasing its effectiveness,” says Valerio Rossi Stacconi, a postdoctoral research associate who is working on the application in Walton’s lab. “The longer the product remains active, the less that needs to be applied.”