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Spinosad Zaps Crop Pests / April 12, 2000 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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In coffee fields, medflies lay their eggs in fruits that house the coffee beans.

Read: Agricultural Research article.

Spinosad Zaps Crop Pests

By Marcia Wood
April 12, 2000 .

An environmentally friendly insecticide called spinosad may become the weapon of choice for fighting insects such as the Mediterranean fruit fly, one of the world's worst agricultural pests. Medflies can attack more than 200 different kinds of fruits and vegetables and could adapt easily to life in warm-weather states like California, Texas and Florida.

Agricultural Research Service entomologist Roger I. Vargas and colleagues in Hawaii are exploring spinosad's potential. They are with the agency's U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center at Hilo.

When applied at recommended rates, spinosad poses less risk than most insecticides to mammals, birds, fish and beneficial insects. Furthermore, spinosad is already approved for use on more than 100 crops.

In coffee fields in Hawaii, the ARS scientists compared spinosad to malathion insecticide and to phloxine B, a dye that is also a promising alternative to malathion. Though malathion was the most effective, spinosad and phloxine B gave impressive levels of control.

In addition, an important natural enemy of medfly--a small wasp known as Fopius arisanus--was significantly less susceptible to spinosad and phloxine B than to malathion. The reddish-brown and black wasp is harmless to humans. Spinosad or phloxine B may need to be applied more frequently than malathion, but the total amount of active ingredient released into the environment using spinosad or phloxine B would be far less, the research indicated.

An article in the current issue of the agency's monthly magazine, Agricultural Research, tells more.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's main research wing.

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Scientific contact: Roger I. Vargas, ARS U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center, Hilo, HI, phone (808) 959-4329, fax (808) 959-4323, rvargas@pbarc.ars.usda.gov.

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