A new campaign has been launched to warn soft fruit growers of the UK arrival of a major new threat - the spotted wing drosophila fruit fly.
The fly - which originates from Asia - was identified in the UK for the first time last August by East Malling Research in Kent. Its ability to spread rapidly and cause harm to commercial crops by injecting eggs into healthy fruit makes it particularly harmful.
Launching next month, a new campaign - spearheaded by an industry working group supported by the Scottish government and the Food and environment Research Agency (Fera) - will target growers and packers with best practice advice on how to manage the threat.
A number of workshops will outline how to identify and monitor the pest, and which control measures to put in place. They will be informed by knowledge gathered from other countries’ experience. The workshops will be supported by guidance documents that will, for example, provide advice on the chemical controls available.
“By working together, the industry can minimise the effect of this pest in UK crops and ensure this year’s demand for top quality berries is delivered as planned,” said Laurence Olins, chairman of British Summer Fruits, one of the working group members.
Five adult flies were found initially by EMR, but six more have subsequently been identified. “The location of the discovery and some adults being found in wild blackberry indicate the pest is already more widespread,” said an EMR spokesman. Two further samples had been received from growers in the South East, he added.
The working group includes the Tomato Growers’ Association and the NFU. In August 2011, The Grocer reported that the fly was present in France but had not yet made it to the UK.