Oregon’s fresh fruit industry is taking no chances with the drosophila suzukii, a fruit fly discovered for the first time in the state in August.

Oregon growers, researchers map fruit fly assault

drosophila suzukii

During a time of budget cutting, growers successfully lobbied Oregon lawmakers, said Bruce Pokarney, director of communications for the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

“It’s a credit to the industry to be able to go to the legislature and get the funds dedicated to agriculture,” he said.

Lawmakers earmarked nearly $250,000 to aid the fresh fruit industry in developing an early detection, rapid response approach to the fruit fly, Pokarney said. The funds will be split among researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, researchers at Oregon State University and a private firm that will monitor farmland and, if necessary, trap the pests, Pokarney said.

The fruit fly was first discovered in a Salem area peach orchard. A small infestation was subsequently discovered about 200 miles away in a stone fruit orchard in the state’s northeastern corner. It could attack more than stone fruit, however.

“There’s concern all fresh fruit can be affected,” Pokarney said.

Salem is located in the heart of the Willamette Valley, Oregon’s major blueberry, blackberry and raspberry producing region, a prime reason for developing the early detection, rapid response approach, Pokarney said. A working group involving the researchers is meeting weekly to look at a wide range of methods to combat the pest, he said.

“The goal is to develop a very well thought-out plan of attack,” Pokarney said. “We plan to develop the tools even before a specific area is hit.”

Unlike other vinegar fly varieties most often found on rotting fruit, the female drosophila suzukii pierces the skin of fresh fruit and lays her eggs in the flesh. An unknown is whether the pest was able to over winter in the Pacific Northwest.

“We don’t know if 2009 was a one time event or whether the drosophila is going to come back with a vengeance,” Pokarney said. “We’re doing what we have to do to ensure that Oregon fruit is still high quality.”