Protecting Okanagan fruit crops

Orchardists raise alarms about detection of two invasive pests in our region over the past year.

Adult female Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Okanagan orchardists are concerned about a possible infestation of new invasive pests.

The crop protection concerns centre around the detection of an Apple Maggot in West Kelowna residential area and another in a Kelowna commercial property last year, along with two Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs (BMSB) found near the Penticton canal and another by a Kelowna homeowner.

Peter Simonsen, a director with the BCFGA executive, said the presence of both pests spawned immediate protective measures to assess and localize the infestations, but admitted the existing pest control resources are limited both by general effectiveness and insufficient government funding support.

“It is clear, with all that is going on in crop protection, that it is time to reactivate a committee of BCFGA members to provide input and to come up with new ways of tackling existing and new pests,” said Simonsen in a crop protection committee report presented at the B.C. Fruit Growers Convention on Thursday.

An infestation of apple maggots, sometimes referred to as the “railroad worm,” will make an apple crop inedible, suitable only for cider or animal feed.

The BMSB—actually native to China, Japan, Korean and Taiwan but was accidentally introduced into the United States in 1998—can cause widespread damage to fruit and vegetable crops.

The concern with these pests is their ability to multiply and travel up and down the valley, laying eggs and spreading their infestations if not immediately subdued upon initial detection.

With regard to the BMSB, Simonsen said the traditional tools for controlling the pest have had limited success in the eastern U.S., as its movement is virtually uncontrollable.

“The pest flies far and also can ‘hitch hike’ on vehicles and exported products. We do not consider that a breeding population is established in our area yet, however, we want to protect our Okanagan area.”

Detection of these bugs also raised concerns from orchardists about detection response protocols, something BCFGA general manager Glen Lucas says needs to be ironed out this year.

“We need to have adequate resources in place for early detection and an adequate response,” Lucas said.

The BCFGA has also raised concerns about the proposed phase-out of the pesticide imidacloprid, known as Admire, following an environmental assessment that found spray residue levels in waterways harmful to aquatic insects.

Simonsen said the BCFGA and Canadian Horticultural Council are advocating for further research to be done before such a pesticide ban is adopted.

“…water samples have not been tested in the Okanagan. We will put forward the position that differences in how B.C. uses imidacloprid appear to eliminate the concern of harmful residues in water bodies,” said the report.

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