Farmers vs. flies: 'This new one is a whole new ball game'

Farmers vs. flies: 'This new one is a whole new ball game'

EUGENE, Ore. - The berry bushes at Thistledown Farm look peaceful in the summer sun even as a war rages between farmers and fruit flies.

At stake: your favorite summer berries.

Oregon State researchers say the winged invader is turning the berries to mush.

"It's called the spotted winged disophila," said Ross Penhallegon, horticulture agent with the Lane County Cooperative Extension. "It actually started up in Oregon in 2008, came from Japan to California and moved into Oregon."
The fly burrows into the soil and comes back year after year, he said.

The fly is a new challenge for farmers like Randy Henderson at Thistledown.

"This new one is a whole new ball game," he said. "It pierces fruit, lays the eggs, then you get wormy fruit."

The spotted winged disophila likes all soft fruit.

"So far we've seen the disophila in strawberries, raspberries, Marion berries, cherries, peaches, and the new blackberry crop coming on and in blueberries," Penhallegon said.

Penhallegon said consumers are going to have to make a choice.

"There are controls, meaning sprays, and in Lane County 'sprays' is a bad word," he said. "So the public is going to have to decide: OK, do you want the fruit to be good and spray, or do you want to just have value-added protein in our berries?"

There are options to protecting yourselves against larva.

"Put it in the freezer," Penhallegon said. "It kills the larva."

And you can protect your own garden

"You can actually make traps, make little traps out of about 42-inch plastic containers with a lid and put an inch and a half of apple cider vinegar and put it in your garden," he said.

For farmers, the pests cost a pretty penny.

"There's a lot of money on the line," Henderson said, "and a lot of time and commitment on our part."