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SWD changes the game for fruit growers

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A fruit fly that could decimate the tart cherry industry has growers struggling to find management solutions.

Spotted Wing Drosophila or SWD was first found in the Pacific Northwest in 2009 and feeds on small fruit and fruit tree crops. Northwest Michigan cherry grower Ben LaCross tells Brownfield in 2014 growers knew it was migrating toward the Great Lakes and this year the pest’s damage was widespread.  “I think it’s going to take some older orchards out of production.  People are going to pull those orchards out because they’re not worth going in with the extra spray and the extra cost to maintain them with SWD.  I hope it doesn’t force any growers to get out of the industry but it’s a really tough bug to manage.”

He says the pest moves into orchards at the worst possible time for cherry growers when they’re just starting harvest.  “The last thing a cherry grower needs to do is spend hours upon hours extra sitting in the cab of a sprayer trying to maintain adequate control of this bug.  It’s a game changer.”

LaCross says increased pesticide usage also causes concern for increased residue levels and could potentially hinder cherry exports. Currently Michigan State University is working with growers to research best management practices to combat SWD which LaCross says can’t come soon enough.

AUDIO: Interview with Ben LaCross

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