The sterile navel orangeworm project is receiving even more industry support with the Almond Board of California (ABC) contributing a significant amount of funding toward a critical component of the program. The project includes rearing and releasing irradiated moths into orchards to help control overall populations of the pest.
“This is the largest investment in any single project we’ve made on the almond production side,” said Josette Lewis, Director of Agricultural Affairs at ABC. “The research that we’re funding right now is really to test out the viability of this method in control of navel orangeworm. We do know it works for some other pests.”
Similar efforts to address pink bollworm resulted in so much success that a rearing facility in Arizona was in need of industry support after the amount of federal funding it was receiving declined based on what it was able to help accomplish. “The size of the investment on the research is actually not that large, but the majority of funding is going to help bridge the operating expense of this APHIS facility in Phoenix in the hope that the federal government will respond to industry interest to keep that facility alive and help bare some of the cost,” said Lewis.
The insects need to be reared in large numbers in confined laboratory environments and refining the process to produce adequate numbers of healthy insects has proved challenging. “That’s really the scope of the research right now is to try to figure out that calibration of how to get sterility without overly harming the insects so that they are able to get out there and mate just as well as the wild ones,” Lewis noted.
The investment made by ABC will help to ensure the rearing facility in Arizona remains operational and further progress can be made with the overall sterile navel orangeworm project. “We envision this research actually will take several years,” said Lewis, “but given the investment, particularly by the pistachio industry up until now, we wanted to make sure we kept that facility alive as long as possible to see whether we can keep the door open.”
Listen to the interview below.