OSU educates growers about invasive, fruit-damaging fly

A spotted-wing drosophila trap hangs from a ripening blueberry bush in a research plot at the OSU North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora, Ore.

Spotted-wing drosophila (SWD) is a notorious pest that feeds on ripening soft-skinned fruits such as blueberries, cherries, and peaches. Controlling it is difficult for a host of reasons, including its short generation time, wide range, lack of natural predators, and even its hearty immune system. SWD threatens berry and cherry crops valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Since the invasive fruit fly arrived in Oregon in 2009, Oregon State University Extension and Agricultural Experiment Station researchers, field faculty and partners across the country moved quickly to learn all they could about the insect and develop strategies to contain the threat. OSU hosted a $5.8 million multi-state grant from the U.S. department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and has provided leadership to other multi-state research and extension efforts. This continuing study is leading to several targeted approaches that will allow producers to bring crops to market while reducing the use of pesticides:

  • OSU and its partners have provided pesticide guidance so that growers know when to apply which products for maximum response, with an eye toward lucrative export markets.
  • Researchers are investigating biological controls; for example, entomologists have identified a predatory wasp that reduces SWD populations by preying on the insect in its immature life stages.
  • OSU Extension has developed a regional presence, providing outreach programming and sharing research results across state lines.
  • The description of the SWD genome allows researchers to target attractants specifically for this pest.

Recently, OSU was awarded a $450,000 grant from NIFA to better understand SWD behavior. Faculty members Timothy Warren 9Department of Botany and Plant Pathology) and Vaughn Walton (Department of Horticulture) will use a set of interrelated experiments to study the fly’s movement, including computerized camera traps in the field and flight simulators in the lab. Together, these studies will provide a quantitative understanding of how the SWD moves, which then can be used to manage the pest.

OSU Extension has published several guides to assist growers in the fight against SWD, including:

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