First Commercial Find of Black Fig Fly Puts Grower’s Season on Hold

Brian German Fruits & Vegetables, Industry

Black fig fly has now officially been found in a commercial growing operation in Ventura County. The discovery was made after a tip was received through the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Pest Hotline. Fifth-generation farmer and partner at Petty Ranch, Chris Sayer said CDFA sent personnel out to the farm and confirmed the finding.

“When they sent one of their biologists out here to have a look, he found some suspicious looking damaged fruit and sent it to the lab and the results came back yesterday,” Sayer noted. “So, we are the proud owners of the very first commercial resident of black fig flies in California.”

Black fig fly feeds exclusively on figs and the pest does not appear to be a threat to other crops. The pest is fairly widespread in growing regions in the Mediterranean but has yet to become an issue for California growers. CDFA had recently sent out a notice encouraging growers to scout for the pest after it was discovered in several urban areas in Southern California.

“My first thought when they found the fruit fly yesterday was that this was going to cause a quarantine on all fruit coming from our property,” Sayer explained. “Fortunately, it looks like we’ve got a hold on figs, but figs only. So, we can continue with lemons and avocados.”

Petty Ranch is home to only one acre of figs, so the black fig fly does not pose a severe risk to the operation. The figs are being grown as a trial orchard to learn more about the fruit and its potential for the farm. Sayer noted they are fortunate that it is such a small part of their operation, and that the discovery was not found in the proximity of prime fig growing areas of California.

“While having one acre of experimental trees out of production for the year – if it comes to that – is not great, that’s something certainly we can handle,” said Sayer. “But hopefully, as CDFA expands their surveillance efforts they don’t find that it has established itself in the fig producing regions because that could be very, very bad news for them.”

Listen to the interview below.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West