- Associated Press - Sunday, October 15, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - An invasive fruit fly from Asia is upending the economics and growing techniques for raspberries, blueberries and grapes in Minnesota.

Potted wing drosophila damage crops, shorten harvesting seasons, increase insecticide use and reduce income for producers, The Star Tribune reported. They were first detected in the state in 2012.

The flies lay eggs in ripening fruit. The eggs grow into small white worms that turn fruit into mush.

Fall raspberries are the most vulnerable fruit, but the bugs also invade blueberries, blackberries, summer strawberries and grapes that have soft skins.

University of Minnesota Extension entomologist Bill Hutchison estimates that 20 to 25 percent of berry growers in the state have suspended production or gone out of business because of the bugs.

“It’s a game changer,” Hutchison said.

Farmers have to put in extra work to monitor for the pests and apply pesticides, said Paul Hugunin, director of the agricultural marketing and development division at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

“Farming anything isn’t easy, and nobody needs additional pests or things to try to deal with,” Hugunin said. “This is something relatively new that’s going to make this a more complicated industry for folks.”

Jerry Untiedt farms just west of the Twin Cities. He’s working with University of Minnesota Extension researchers to study the flies and determine when they begin appearing and how their populations increase. That information can help researchers determine how to get rid of the pests.

“I think that many growers have just given up because many times you don’t notice this pest until you notice the white worms emerging from the fruit,” Untiedt said. “So you’ve spent all of this time and used your finances to take care of the plant and irrigate it and fertilize it and prune it, and then all of a sudden your crop is not marketable.”

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Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com


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