Optimism for Managing Black Fig Fly in California

Brian GermanFruits & Vegetables, Industry

The black fig fly remains a concerning pest for growers after first being discovered in a commercial fig operation in Ventura County last year. Efforts to better understand the pest are ongoing and hold promise for keeping the pest managed in California. Chris Sayer from Petty Ranch, where the pest was first found, said the discovery was alarming and resulted in disaster for last year’s fig crop.

Black Fig Fly

“Fortunately, our fig planting is really a trial scale operation, so it didn’t really impact us at the bottom line. But within that specific enterprise, it was pretty ugly,” said Sayer. “This year we’re just starting to see figs for the new season form. We are seeing the fly back again, although not yet in large numbers.”

Along with Ventura County, the pest has also been reported in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties. While the initial quarantine has been lifted, the movement of figs from the affected counties remains strongly discouraged. “From a cultural standpoint though, the damage done by the fly and the amount of scaring and infestation, and fruit drop that results from that, probably is still going to make it a pretty tough economic challenge for us this year,” Sayer explained.

University of California personnel are working with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to learn more about the pest. Sayer noted that it seems that they have made quite a bit of progress over the past year. The goal is to prevent black fig fly from taking hold in primary fig production areas of the Central Valley. Sayer said that researchers are out at the ranch trapping and monitoring and believes that studying a full season of production will provide further insight on the pest.

“Even though this season probably will not be great, I think by the end of the season we’re going to have a lot more knowledge about how to deal with it,” Sayer noted. “I’m optimistic that it will be able to be something that can be controlled and managed in the future.”

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West