The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative allows researchers in many parts of the United States to help find organic management strategies for devastating pests in their area.
Ashfaq Sial, assistant professor at the University of Georgia, said he is using this initiative to research the spotted wing drosophila (SWD), a fly pest that has been ruining small berry crops in the Southeast.
If even one SWD larva is found in a shipment a grower has sent, the entire shipment will be rejected. The research done through this initiative is to provide as many different types of management strategies as possible to growers affected by this pest. Sial said that many organic growers have an especially difficult time fending off SWD due to the lack of insecticide options.
SWD was detected in United States for the first time in California in 2008 and has spread across the country since then, Sial said. When this fly became an issue, organic growers could only use the very few organically certified insecticides.
According to Sial, the best management strategy for many pests is combining multiple methods. He continues to study behavioral, chemical and cultural methods to fight SWD. This helps organic growers protect their crops by allowing them to use methods that do not involve insecticides. Applying the strategy of combined methods is more properly known as integrated pest management.
“Integrated pest management means integrating all techniques that are available to control pests to develop a specific program that is economically feasible and environmentally sound,” said Sial.
To have the best possible integrated pest management system for their specific needs, Sial said it is important for growers to sample, identify their pests, and know how many of each pest they have in the field and the damage those pests are doing to the crop.
Typically, he said that biological and cultural controls are used on the crop first to try to manage the grower’s issues. If those are unsuccessful, chemical management strategies are then applied to the field. Sial said this has allowed for a decrease in the use of insecticides in crops.
He suggested growers get a consultation if they are having issues managing crops. This will help them figure out what management strategy may work best for their specific production systems.
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