The North Central region’s fruit industry is experiencing substantial damage from the invasive spotted wing drosophila (SWD) fruit fly, with Wisconsin grape and berry growers identifying SWD as their top insect pest. Fruit growers worldwide are facing similar problems, with few effective, sustainable solutions. Management of SWD relies heavily on chemical control, which detriments economic and environmental sustainability, and does not provide adequate control of this pest. Growers apply broad-spectrum insecticides every 4-7 days, raising concerns about consequences on natural enemies, pollinators, secondary pest outbreaks, soil health, and overall land stewardship. Excessive insecticide use threatens the quality of life of farmers, as well as surrounding communities. Growers express a strong interest in alternative management strategies that significantly decrease chemical inputs and costs. Our proposal, titled “Impact of mulches on management of spotted wing drosophila, fruit yield and quality”, will examine the impact of colored and reflective mulches on SWD adult presence and berry infestation in raspberry, as well as on fruit yield and quality. We will test four types of plastic mulches including reflective metallic, black, blue, and red. We will assess SWD adult populations and berry infestation, and evaluate yield, SWD damage to berries, berry weight, and measure fruit quality parameters including color, soluble solid concentration, and titratable acidity. We will assess plant growth using post-season dry weight, and use leaf samples to evaluate nutrient uptake. The reflectivity of each mulch will be measured with a spectroradiometer. The expected outcomes of this project include 1) improved understanding by researchers, educators, and growers of how mulches can be used to control SWD and increase fruit yield and quality, 2) increased implementation of mulches by North Central region fruit growers, achieving more effective SWD management, increasing fruit yield and quality, and decreasing insecticide applications for SWD. We will evaluate the efficacy of our research in achieving these outcomes by creating an advisory panel with growers and one county extension agent, and conducting pre- and post-study grower surveys online through the Wisconsin Fruit website and at presentations given at the Wisconsin Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Conference. The outcomes of this project will be relevant to North Central region fruit growers experiencing damage from SWD, as well as fruit growers worldwide. Ultimately, we hope to provide recommendations to fruit growers for achieving more sustainable management of SWD, subsequently reducing insecticide inputs, and increasing environmental and economic sustainability of fruit production.
Project objectives from proposal:
The expected learning outcomes for this research are as follows: 1) researchers will learn how mulch color and reflectivity affect SWD management, fruit yield and quality; 2) researchers will learn how to use mulches to effectively manage SWD and increase fruit yield and quality; 3) 30% of growers surveyed will have increased knowledge of how mulches impact SWD management, fruit yield and quality. The expected action outcomes are that: 1) growers will start using mulches for SWD management; 2) growers that use mulches will achieve more effective SWD management, higher fruit yield and quality, and decrease insecticide applications for SWD.