State universities work together to understand life cycle
By DAN WHEAT
West Coast scientists have won a $5.8 million grant to study and combat the feared spotted wing drosophila, which is active in California and parts of Oregon and Washington.
The pest has not been found in two months of trapping this spring in three counties of Eastern Washington.
The USDA grant was announced April 29 by U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.
Oregon State University is the grant lead but others involved are Washington State University, University of California-Davis, University of California-Berkeley, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, the USDA Horticultural Crops Research Lab at Corvallis, Ore., and Peerbolt Crop Management Inc. in Portland.
The 41/2-year grant is from USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Specialty Crop Initiative. The grant allows the universities to create an integrated pest management program for the Asian pest discovered in California in 2008 and which damaged crops in 2009.
A coordinated approach would not be possible without the grant, OSU officials said. Researchers will be able to document the pest's biology, movement, fruit preference and seasonal phenology to help farmers with management strategies, officials said.
The spotted wing drosophila, also known as Drosophila suzukii, is alarming because it attacks numerous ripening fruits, not just damaged and decaying fruit, and is expected to have six to 10 life cycles in a season in most West Coast regions, scientists have said.
Last season, the fly destroyed an estimated one-third of California's cherry crop and about one-fourth of some late season blueberries, raspberries and peaches in Oregon, scientists say. The fly was found in Hood River, The Dalles and Pendleton but not Idaho or eastern Washington.
Doug Walsh, a WSU entomologist heading Washington research on the fly, said no flies have been captured in 45 traps set out in early March in Walla Walla, Benton and Franklin counties. That's good news, especially for worried cherry growers, he said.
The traps are in cherry and peach orchards, vineyards and around wild blackberries and will be monitored throughout the season as the situation could change rapidly, he said.
Walsh continues to hope that the east of the states are too cold in winter and hot in summer for the pest to do well.
There has been evidence of it remaining active through winter in the western parts of Oregon and Washington, he said.
Danny Dalton, research assistant for project lead Vaughn Walton, OSU entomologist, said it's just beginning to get warm enough on the west sides for the fly to increase in number. He said traps probably will be placed near Milton-Freewater and in the Columbia River Gorge.
Dalton said the fly arrived in Oregon too late last year to impact Willamette Valley cherries. That could be different this year, he said.
Walsh said the fly has been found in rotting oranges on an orchard floor in Bakersfield, Calif. He said it's been found in Florida and is responsible for U.S. cherries and California table grapes being banned in Australia.
Specific spotted wing drosophila recommendations for Oregon and California growers by crop and state are available at http://swd.hort.oregonstate.edu