Fruit Growers Recruit Science to Tackle Agricultural Pest

The farming industry has turned to science to deal with an agricultural threat. The threat comes in the form of a small flying insect that has plagued fruit growers in certain parts of the world for many years. The answer may come from specialists using advanced biological techniques and the latest computer technology.

The British Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board has begun working with researchers from England’s University of Lincoln to tackle a species of fruit fly known as the spotted wing drosophilia. More about the use of scientific methods to deal with this agricultural threat is available at www.reddit.com/r/agriculture.

The pest was believed to have originated in Southeast Asia. Reaching the British Isles in 2012, the fly has since spread to other parts of the world, including North America. In recent years, fruit growers on the American West Coast have reported losses of more than $500 million that are directly attributable to the infestation. The wide variety of fruits that have been attacked include cherries, strawberries and peaches.

The invasion begins when the female fly deposits her eggs inside the fruit. Larvae that develop from the eggs then make holes in and also feed on the plant material. Although other types of fruit flies normally infest rotting fruits, the spotted wing drosophilia is more destructive because it attacks during the early ripening stage, before anything can be harvested.

Researchers are considering the use of certain strains of yeast as a type of bait that might lure the flies away from the targeted fruits. Another possibility involves the use of computerized camera systems that mimic the vision of insects, leading to the development of mechanisms that prevent the pests from even finding the fruits they attack.

Science has been recruited by the agricultural industry with the goal of replacing traditional methods of protecting crops, including pesticides that have been known to create their own environmental problems.