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Greener methods control cherry pest

WENATCHEE – Thanks to the efforts of Extension educator Tim Smith,
sweet cherry growers in central Washington are using new environmentally friendly materials and methods to control Cherry fruit fly.

Washington is the nation’s leading producer of sweet cherries and a third of the crop is exported. The key quarantine pest of sweet cherries is cherry fruit fly, for which there is zero tolerance. As recently as five years ago, organophosphate or carbamate insecticides were the most commonly used control products. By 2004, many of the most effective insecticides were strictly limited or completely banned near fish-bearing streams.

Smith initiated trials in central Washington starting in the late 1990s to screen new methods and materials for use by both conventional and organic cherry growers. Thanks to Smith’s research, EPA granted registration of a limited-risk pesticide (spinosad) on cherries in 2001. Three years later it was approved for use in organic orchards as well as spinosad has a low level of toxicity. He demonstrated the use of new application equipment to growers since they had no experience using this type of material.

Today, this method of control is the most used cherry fruit fly control material. The shift to alternative products has reduced the use of traditional control products by well over 150,000 pounds per year. Insecticide-use data analysis indicates that growers are saving about $1.5 million per season on control costs, and applicator employees are much less exposed to organophosphate and carbamate insecticides. The shift of application from tractor-pulled spraying to ATV application saves about 223,000 gallons of fuel annually. All these savings and, at the same time, cherry fruit fly control has improved significantly as well.

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