ARS Research Leads to Deep Cuts in Pesticide Use in
By Kim Kaplan
May 9, 2007
Pesticide use to keep exotic fruit flies
from becoming established has been cut as much as 8,000-fold by the state of
California, as a result of Agricultural Research Service (ARS) work toward more effective control
Because fruit flies are such a big risk to California's economy, large
amounts of pesticides previously were used there when chemicals were the only
tool for eradication. If just one species of exotic fruit fly, such as the
Mediterranean fruit flyCeratitis capitata, commonly called the
medflyhad become established, it could have cost California more than
$1.4 billion a year in lost markets, export sanctions, treatment costs and
reduced crop yields, in addition to the loss of 14,000 jobs.
Techniques such as improved ways of producing sterile male fruit flies for
release to short-circuit the breeding cycle, new biocontrols such as
augmentative releases of parasitic wasps, and better ways to manage crops to
minimize fruit fly infestation have all come from research by the ARS U.S.
Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center (PBARC)
in Hilo, Hawaii, and the ARS
de la Garza Subtropical Agricultural Research Center in Weslaco, Texas.
In particular, more effective and more species-specific lures and baits have
made possible the deep reductions in insecticide use in states such as
California and Florida.
In the 1930s, California used lead arsenate sprays at rates as high as two
pounds of active ingredient (AI) per treeabout 260 pounds of AI per
acreand still did not succeed in completely eradicating walnut husk fruit
fly infestations. That's according to Robert V. Dowell, program supervisor of
the Integrated Pest Control
Branch of the California Department of
Food and Agriculture.
In the 1990s, ARS developed a bait that more readily attracts medflies
because it smells like a gourmet dinner to fruit flies. That new bait is now
used in combination with spinosad, a more environmentally friendly insecticide
developed by Dow
AgroSciences LLC. The effective dose is as little as 0.00025 pound of AI
more about this research in the May/June 2007 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.