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Farm LoLa and MMAD LAB look to Defeat Costly Fruit Pest

May 22, 2017

Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) is as bad as it sounds.

A fruit fly from SE Asia, SWD is decimating fruit crops in America and is a serious industry threat to soft summer fruit like raspberries and blueberries. The pest lays its eggs inside fruit and has accounted for up to 50% berry crop losses in California. Minnesota confirmed SWD in 2012. (http://www.mda.state.mn.us/plants/insects/swd.aspx)

Insecticides are the common advice for farmers, but Farm LoLa doesn’t want to spray. That’s where University of Minnesota Duluth’s MMAD Lab comes in. 

(Motion and Media Across Disciplines Lab: http://www.d.umn.edu/external-affairs/homepage/14/m-madlab.html)

A combination of UMD faculty, staff and students, along with hopeful farmer Jason Amundsen will use the MMAD Lab to examine the effectiveness of possible SWD controls.

In particular, the team will use the lab’s lighting system to simulate dawn/dusk conditions when SWD is most active. They will release flies to see which traps attract them best. The activity will be captured on the lab’s high-speed cameras, while high-end sound level meters will be employed to  count the number of fruit flies destroyed when coming into contact with a "bug zapper." 

(The typical measure of trap effectiveness is simply a count of dead insects; but the zapper appears to obliterate SWD, leaving little or nothing to count.  The idea is to use frequency analysis of the sound to estimate the number of SWD killed over a period of time to compare effectiveness with other control methods.)

Farmer Jason Amundsen said, “We’ve had SWD twice at our farm, and it’s a miserable experience. Everyone seems to be at a loss of how to proceed. Other farmers are plowing under their raspberry patches because the problem seems intractable. I’ve spent the winter brainstorming various ways to address the problem and I’m grateful for the university’s help in testing these ideas.”

The MMAD Labs are exciting resources for faculty, graduate, and undergraduate student research, pedagogical development, and creative exploration across the campus of UMD. Currently, these labs host multi-disciplinary collaborations among faculty in theater, digital arts, exercise science, mechanical engineering, and computer science. 

For more info on SWD, visit: 

http://spottedwing.org/

http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/fruit/integrated-pest-management-for-home-raspberry-growers/spotted-wing-drosophila/

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