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.
While the current market of $3/pound ground beef and $1.50 cartons of eggs means that families can dine cheaper,
these family windfalls have grocery stores and farmers panicking. Experts are anticipating that this drop in agricultural productivity will reach its worst point since 1960. While this is great for anyone looking to work on a culinary bucket list, it could leave many farmers and vendors scrambling to stay alive in the market.
While the annual cost to feed a person has dropped by nearly 2%, this reduced cost has impacts dairy, meat and grains by an even greater margin: Corn has dropped to less than half its cost per-bushel in four months, wheat is at a notable low of slightly above 40% of its peak worth and the value of soy has dropped to nearly half of what it used to fetch. Elsewhere, dairy farmers have had to discard excess milk with the government providing a $20 million bailout to store the surplus. At least one corn farmer has remarked that 2016 is looking to be his least profitable in 20 years and the reduced prices of his livelihood imperil the very industry.
When changes perspective from America’s farmers to most of the country’s grocery stores, most of these vendors have reported mediocre gains in their quarterly earnings and attribute those meager gains to a deflation of product. Indeed, the comments about “deflation” can be attributed to an incredibly bountiful yield of crops that has greatly impacted the concept of scarcity. Another factor in the value of grain products is that the price of corn has recently changed to have a relationship with gas prices, shifting to reflect the value of ethanol instead of traditional fossil fuels.
Only a handful of industry positives emerge from this news: the increased value of fruit, mostly driven by California’s drought negatively affecting its fields and orchards; the increased profits and stock value of deflation-resistant Walmart; and an opportunity for the meat industry to rebound into profitability as the price of cattle feed and chicken feed plummets in value. The president of the National Turkey Federation remarked that the cost of grain accounts for nearly three-quarters of the total cost to bringing a turkey to the dinner table.