Science and Economics Both Work in Fruit Fly
By Kim Kaplan
February 11, 2008
A research program to control
exotic fruit flies in Hawaii has had an economic return of better than 30
percent. The Hawaii Area Wide
Fruit Fly Integrated Pest Management (HAW-FLYPM) program is a cooperative
effort of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the
Hawaii Cooperative Extension and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.
The HAW-FLYPM program developed a way to control four foreign fruit fly
speciesMediterranean fruit fly, melon fly, oriental fruit fly and
Malaysian fruit flythat have been devastating more than 400 fruits and
vegetables in the Hawaiian Islands for 100 years. Without the HAW-FLYPM
program, farmers must rely on nearly weekly spraying of pesticides. Susceptible
crops include citrus, tomato, guava, mango, melon, papaya and persimmon.
Within three years of the program's start, the researchers knew it worked
scientifically and that growers could physically apply it for themselves. But
for growers to continue with the program, real economic benefit needed to be
So the program brought in economist Andrew M. McGregor to conduct a
cost-benefit analysis, totaling benefits to farmers, households, and the
public. These benefits add up to a hefty 32 percent return on an investment of
$14 million over 15 years.
For example, Aloun Farm in Oahu is
now producing an additional 130,000 pounds of zucchini a year with minimal
pesticide use, thanks to the HAW-FLYPM program, a gain of about $75,000.
The program has also helped preserve a Hawaiian cultural tradition.
Ipu, Hawaiian for the hard-shell gourd, has always been an important part of
the island culture, used as a drum in hula dance and as a traditional way to
store food or water.
But the melon fly had made it almost impossible to grow the traditional ipu
gourds in Hawaii, and thousands of gourds have had to be purchased from
This past season, for the first time, the vice president of the
Hawaii Gourd Society harvested
hundreds of beautiful ipu gourds by using the HAW-FLYPM program.
more about this research in the February 2008 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agricultures chief in-house scientific research agency.