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Insect-Attracting Device Nets Award from USDA Research AgencyBy Ben Hardin
February 7, 2001
PEORIA, Ill., Feb. 7A team of researchers in private industry, universities and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have won an ARS award for their technology transfer efforts involving development of a biodegradable decoy that fatally attracts apple maggot flies or other insect pests. The patented decoy, hung in trees at the edge of orchards may provide an alternative to repeated chemical insecticide sprays.
The seven team members will be among eight teams and individuals engaged in technology transfer that ARS, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency, will honor Feb. 7 at a 1 p.m. ceremony at the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville (Md.) Agricultural Research Center.
The spherical decoy is coated with sugar, paint and insecticides. In research plots, the decoys controlled apple maggots with an insecticide rate of about two grams of active ingredient per acre in contrast to control by a normal rate of more than 1,000 grams per season in conventionally sprayed plots.
If not controlled, 1/4-inch-long, black and white striped adult apple maggot flies can inflict millions of dollars in damage to orchards. They lay eggs just below the apples skins. Maggots hatch and feed, creating tunnels through the apples, which begin to decay and then drop to the ground.
Team member Ronald J. Prokopy, an entomologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, first found that apple maggot flies were beguiled by a decoy with suitable color, shape, size and surface texture. Seeking an insecticide-laced decoy that would require little or no maintenance, he enlisted the participation of ARS scientists Michael R. McGuire, Robert W. Behle and J.L. Willett at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria, Ill. Funded partly by the Peoria-based Biotechnology Research and Development Corporation (BRDC), the researchers had developed expertise in producing starch formulations that controlled the rate of release of various substances. Coming up with a formulation with the right features for apple decoys involved their joint efforts with BRDC chemist Baruch S. Shasha (formerly with ARS) and BRDCs President and CEO J. Grant Brewen .
Noting Prokopys insect control successes with experimental decoys developed in Peoria, entomologist Oscar E. Liburd of Michigan State University, East Lansing, joined the research team. He wanted to try the decoys in research to control insect damage to apples and other fruits threatened by apple maggots and related insects in Michigan orchards. With insecticide-treated spheres painted green he achieved season-long control of the blueberry maggot in highbush blueberries.
As researchers called for more and more decoys, Jim Payne, President of Shady Corporation, Philo, Ill., developed the first procedure for scaling up their production and discussed possibilities for additional scale up by other companies. Now, the patent holders have a limited option agreement with the entrepreneurial company FruitSpheres Inc., of Macomb, Ill., which will allow FruitSpheres to obtain an exclusive license to produce the patented spherical decoys.
Scientific contact: Robert W. Behle, USDA-ARS, National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria, IL 61604; phone (309) 681-6225, fax (309) 681-6693, firstname.lastname@example.org.