Spotted-Wing Drosophila in Blueberries

Spotted-wing drosophila, an invasive insect pest of Asian origin, has recently emerged as a devastating pest of blueberries in Georgia causing significant crop losses. The UGA Blueberry Entomology program, in collaboration with county Extension agents, conducted research and educational activities to help blueberry farmers implement effective season-long management programs to minimize crop losses due to this pest. Field trials were conducted at the University of Georgia Blueberry Research and Demonstration Farm in Alma, Georgia, and at multiple commercial grower farms to evaluate multiple novel reduced-risk technologies and season-long management programs designed to serve the variety of grower needs. Results showed that season-long management programs can be developed to maintain effective control of SWD while keeping residue levels below Maximum Residue Levels established in United States and major export markets. They also evaluated effectiveness of a number of alternative strategies, including cultural practices and behavior modifying tactics to control SWD strategies. Some of these tactics did show promise in reducing SWD populations. Incorporation of these alternative strategies into SWD management programs will further reduce broad-spectrum insecticide use in blueberries production while improving fruit quality and yield. Based on results of these studies, UGA entomologists developed management recommendations in terms of season-long programs to enable growers to effectively control SWD in blueberries under conventional as well as organic production systems without compromising their ability to sell their fruit to U.S. and export markets of their choice. Communication with county Extension agents, pest management consultants, and growers suggest that the majority of the growers used these recommendations. Consequently the total crop losses have significantly decreased with no fruit rejections due to SWD infestations. It has saved Georgia blueberry growers millions of dollars in crop losses due to SWD and increased their profitability by enabling them to access export markets of their choice. The impact of this work on sustainable SWD management goes beyond state boundaries and saves berry growers billions of dollars nationally.