Fly Eggs in Fruit? Insecticides Are the Only Option


Serrated Egg Layer Drosophila


Blueberries: Drosophila Infestation (Right)

The invasive spotted wing drosophila fly came into the US from Asia in 2008 and has spread throughout the US. The fly prefers softer, sweeter ripe fruit- cherries, raspberries, blueberries,blackberries and strawberries. The female flies use saw-like blades on their abdomens to cut through the skin of ripe fruit and lay their eggs inside. The eggs hatch into worms that feed on the flesh of the fruit – ruining the fruit for sale. Insecticides are currently the only option for drosophila control and growers throughout the US are being advised to spray.

“The spotted wing drosophila, a tiny fly that can take a big bite of orchards and gardens, has gradually been making its way across the country from the West Coast and has discovered the summer bounty in the Granite State is much to its liking, according to Dr. Alan Eaton, an entomologist with the University of New Hampshire.

If the flies show up around the time the fruit ripens, the farmers have to immediately spray to kill them off, Eaton said. There are both standard and organic remedies available, he said, but spraying is vital to saving crops. “We’ve had a few growers who weren’t listening to us and their entire crops were wiped out,” said Eaton.”

Author: Nancy Bean Foster
Affiliation: Union Leader Correspondent
Title: Fruit farmers on guard for new pest
Source: Union Leader. August 26, 2013. Available at:,1T79M,6LPYOS,6H5RF,1

Herbicide Use in Finland has Increased Significantly to Protect the North Sea

Herbicide sales: Finland

Herbicide sales: Finland

In 2001, herbicide use began to increase in Finland largely due to government policies subsidizing growers to no longer plow fields for weed control. Finland is a signatory to the North Sea Treaty which includes a goal of reducing nutrients into the North Sea by half. Research showed that a considerable amount of phosphorus moves into waterways with eroded soils from fields that are plowed in the autumn. Thus, growers now are using herbicides to control weeds without plowing in order to keep phosphorus out of the North Sea.

“Our weed survey represented part of a follow-up project on the impacts of agri-environment policy in Finland. For instance, reduced tillage has been one of the subsidized measures primarily implemented to reduce nutrient leaching. Spring cereals, 1.1 million hectares in total, covering 50-55% of arable land, dominate crop production in Finland. In the 1990s ploughing was still the standard tillage practice in spring cereal fields, while the latest statistics show that only approximately half of the cultivated cereal field area is currently ploughed. Ploughing has been replaced with reduced tillage methods (29%) or direct drilling (17%). At the same time, the sales of glyphosate have more than doubled within a decade in Finland.

Increased use of glyphosate in Finland is notable; in 1999, the annual sales of glyphosate products were sufficient to treat about 13% of arable land under cultivation or fallow, while the same figure had increased to 37% in 2010.”

Author(s): Salonen, J., et al.
Affiliation: MTT Agrifood Research Finland, Plant Production Research, Jokionen, Finland
Title: Impact of changed cropping practices on weed occurrence in spring cereals in Finland – a comparison of surveys in 1997-1999 and 2007-2009.
Source: Weed Research. 53:110-120. 2012.

The Consumer is Always Right and That’s Why Farmers Use Pesticides

More than 90% of US fresh produce (fruits and vegetables) is sprayed with insecticides and fungicides to prevent rots and yield loss. This spraying also assures that there are no scabs or insect-feeding marks on the produce. Although some consumers would prefer no pesticide residues, many are unwilling to accept any cosmetic damage. You can’t have it both ways—picture-perfect produce requires pesticide use.

“Over 300 shoppers entering supermarkets completed a questionnaire about purchasing certified pesticide residue-free (CPRF) fresh produce. One-half expressed concern about pesticide use on fresh produce. Two-thirds were willing to pay 5 to 10% higher prices to obtain CPRF fresh produce, but were unwilling to accept any cosmetic defects or insect damage.” 

Author: S.L. Ott
Affiliation: USDA Economics Research Service
Title: Supermarket shoppers’ pesticide concerns and willingness to purchase certified pesticide residue-free fresh produce.
Publication: Agribusiness. 1990. 6(6):593-602.

Cancellation of Effective Insecticides Puts Carrots at Risk of Rejection by Food Companies

The carrot weevil is native to northeastern North America. Each female can lay 300 eggs. After hatching and entering the carrot, the larvae tunnel through the carrot, filling the tunnels with excreta. The epidermal cells around the tunnels die and become dark brown. The presence of larvae, excreta and feeding damage are of major concern to carrot processors because of strict FDA quality control in processed foods. Processors are unwilling to accept carrots if they find one live larva in a sample or if the carrots have more than 1% damage. Since the 1940s, effective broad spectrum insecticides kept carrot weevil damage to a minimum; however, the most effective insecticides have been cancelled for use in the US.

“Adults [carrot weevils] overwinter in and near carrot fields where carrots were grown the previous year, emerging in late April to early May in New Jersey. The adults feed directly on the leaves and crowns of carrots, and females oviposit from the beginning of May until late June in carrot roots. Larvae tunnel extensively throughout the upper third of the roots, damaging 80% or more of the carrots in untreated processing carrot fields.”

“Consequently, pesticide applications are directed at adult weevils to prevent or reduce oviposition. … However, during the past several years, carrot weevil damage has been increasing in New Jersey carrot farms, and the damage has been as high as 90% loss on farms in Salem County. These losses are partly due to the cancellation of broad-spectrum insecticides, such as parathion, azinphos-methyl, and phosmet during the early 1990s.”

Authors: G.M. Ghidiu¹, E. Hitchner², M. Zimmerman¹ and E. Rossell¹
Affiliations: ¹Rutgers University; ²Virginia Tech
Title: Effect of two different nozzle arrangements on control of carrot weevil, Listronotus oregonensis (LeConte), in processing carrots.
Publication: Plant Health Progress. April 3, 2006.

US Drought Effects Would Be Worse Without Pesticides

The current drought has received extensive media coverage. There will be no Dust Bowl this year thanks to the use of pesticides. Farmers have been using herbicides instead of tilling the soil for weed control. By not disturbing the soil, they have conserved soil moisture. Corn yields would be worse if it were not for herbicide technology, a point made in an editorial by David Bridges, President of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, GA.

“The Midwest ‘flash drought’ is withering much of our 2012 corn crop. … Now is the perfect time to consider the benefits to farmers, consumers and the environment of something routinely demonized by activists – pesticides. Pesticides? Yes. Without them, things would be worse, on all ends of our current dilemma.”

“Between 1980 and 2011, corn yields here grew by 64 percent while soil loss dropped 67 percent, energy use dropped 43 percent and carbon emissions fell 36 percent. Of vital importance this year: Irrigation water use for corn dropped 53 percent in the same period.”

“Pesticides and other technologies conserve natural resources while providing a production buffer that limits the effects of natural disasters and the disruptions of unforeseen shortages.”

USA Today echoed these sentiments on August 20.

“The severe drought that has hit the Farm Belt does not immediately threaten to create another Dust Bowl or widespread crop failure, thanks to rapid innovations in the past 20 years in seed quality, planting practices and farming technology, farmers and plant scientists say. … In the past 20 years, farmers have transformed from plowing fields 8 to 11 inches deep to ‘no-till’ or ‘conservation-tillage’ practices designed to minimally disturb the ground. That exposes the soil to less wind erosion, preserves natural nutrients, and captures and retains what moisture does fall.”

Author: David Bridges
Affiliation: Agronomist and President of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, GA
Headline: Drought Would Be Worse Without Pesticides
Publication: Des Moines Register, Wednesday, July 25, 2012.

Author: Chuck Raasch
Headline: Another Dust Bowl for Farm Belt Unlikely
Publication: USA Today, Monday, August 20, 2012

Better Pesticides Contributed Greatly to Increased Rice Yields in Arkansas

Arkansas is the leading rice-producing state in the US. The average yield of Arkansas rice has steadily increased over the past twenty years. The introduction of new pesticide products, e.g., an herbicide that selectively removes weedy red rice from commercial rice without harming the crop, has played a major role in this increased yield.

“During the past 20 years, the state-average yields in Arkansas have increased approximately 1780 lb/acre (about 40 bu/acre) or 2 bu/acre/year. This increase can be attributed to improved varieties and improved management, including such things as better herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides, improved water management through precision leveling and multiple inlet poly-pipe irrigation, improved fertilizer efficiency, and increased understanding of other practices such as seeding dates and tillage practices.”

Authors: C.E. Wilson, Jr., S.K. Runsick and R. Mazzanti
Affiliation: University of Arkansas at Monticello
Title: Trends in Arkansas Rice Production.
Publication: AAES Research Series 581. B.R. Wells Rice Research Studies 2009.

Consumer Expectations for High Quality Lettuce Require Insecticide Use

Fresh market lettuce production in the desert growing areas of Southern California and Arizona is a billion dollar industry and the region annually produces >95% of the leafy vegetables consumed in the U.S. in the fall and winter months. Consumers desire lettuce without any blemishes or insect damage. Consumer standards result in the annual use of insecticides on the lettuce crop as described by Arizona entomologists John Palumbo and Steve Castle…

“In desert vegetable production systems, growers have been delivering high-quality safe produce to the fresh market for decades, and this has been accomplished almost exclusively through the use of insecticides.”

“…western lettuce growers and consultants have reported that chemical control is the only effective IPM tactic available for the control of most major insect pests. Naturally occurring biotic control agents are simply not capable of providing the level of crop protection necessary for meeting the marketing demands for fresh produce. … Because of the short time these crops are in the field, minor feeding activity may render the product unmarketable because of high consumer standards.”

“More recently, the fresh produce industry has experienced significant growth in the value-added market, where lettuce and other leafy greens are prepared and sold as fresh-cut lettuce packs and ready-to-eat, bagged salad mixes. The growth of this industry has also resulted in higher cosmetic standards for leafy vegetable crops, often to the point where virtually no insect contaminants or feeding blemishes are tolerated.”

Authors: John C. Palumbo and Steve J. Castle
Affiliation: University of Arizona Department of Entomology
Title: IPM for fresh-market lettuce production in the desert southwest: the produce paradox
Publication: Pest Management Science (2009) 65:1311-1320.