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Read more about the decoys in the January issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
USDA and Small Business to Test-Manufacture Insect DecoyBy Ben Hardin
March 21, 2000
PEORIA, Ill., March 21--Biodegradable decoys that "fatally attract" insect pests may soon become the first product to be made in U.S. Department of Agriculture facilities and offered for sale. The decoys, hung in trees at the edge of orchards, may provide an alternative to repeated chemical insecticide sprays for insects such as apple maggot flies.
Inventors of the decoys were scientists of USDA's Agricultural Research Service and the Biotechnology Research and Development Corp. (BRDC), Peoria, Ill., and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. A milestone in the invention's development occurred yesterday, March 20, as officials of USDA, BRDC and the entrepreneurial company FruitSpheres Inc., of Macomb, Ill., gathered here to sign an agreement. The limited option agreement will allow FruitSpheres to obtain an exclusive license to produce the patented spherical decoys.
Different versions of the decoys can be made to attract specific insects related to the apple maggot fly including pests of blueberries, cherries, pears and walnuts.
Made from sugar, high fructose corn syrup and corn flour and then coated with latex enamel paint and an insecticide, the decoys will be test-manufactured this year in a recently renovated pilot plant of the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) in Peoria. A provision in 1998 federal legislation (P.L. 105-185) allows some companies to use government facilities to test commercialization potential of new technologies aimed at increasing agricultural commodity utilization.
"By partnering in the scale-up of this product, we hope to show that we can help bridge the gap to commercial production," ARS Administrator Floyd Horn said. "And we're pleased that our first joint efforts with industry in the renovated NCAUR pilot plant may advance environmentally friendly technologies."
ARS is the USDA's chief scientific research agency. Helping ARS and BRDC scientists research the decoy's insect-killing power in field tests were colleagues at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Michigan State University, East Lansing; and Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J. Decoys have protected apples from the apple maggot fly as effectively as using three spray applications of the commonly used insecticide azinphosmethyl. Controlling the pest with the decoy instead of widely dispersed sprays helps keep apples untouched by insecticide.
The decoys are designed to suit insects' preferences for color, shape, size and surface texture. Apple maggot flies fall for an apple-size sphere painted black which, like a red apple, doesn't reflect ultraviolet light. Green spheres attract the blueberry maggot fly.
Commercial manufacture and sales of the decoys containing registered pesticides for use in the United States require approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. To this end, a committee in a federal agricultural program called IR-4, which includes federal and state scientists, is submitting research data that will help the EPA determine whether the decoys containing the insecticide imidacloprid can be used for certain minor crops.
FruitSpheres, Inc. expects to have production equipment running at the NCAUR pilot plant this summer in order to provide samples of the product to researchers and commercial growers. Under the option agreement that can be converted to a license, the company will be set to produce larger quantities for sale in the year 2001.
An article about the research appears in the January issue of ARS' Agricultural Research magazine.
Scientific contact: Michael R. McGuire, Bioactive Agents Research, ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria, Ill., phone (309) 681-6595, fax (309) 681-6693, firstname.lastname@example.org.