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Posts Tagged ‘FDACS’

Article by Margie Pikarsky,
owner of Bee Heaven Farm, Redland FL

You’ve probably heard about the recent quarantine imposed on over 80 square miles of our Redland agricultural area. It’s because of what might be the absolute worst pest imaginable in a single package. Why? The Oriental Fruit Fly eats anything that even remotely looks like a fruit, and some other things too. It’s not from here, so there are no natural enemies.

Remember the Mediterranean fruit fly scares and quarantines? Well, the Medfly has a list of about 20 “host materials”, fruits. The Oriental Fruit Fly has a 14 PAGE list of just about every fruit you can think of, fruiting veggies like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, cucumber, luffa, snap beans, and even some ornamentals like jasmine, brugmansia, orchids and Ylang-Ylang. Get the idea just how devastating this fly could be if it gained a foothold here?

The Department of Agriculture monitors sentinel traps for several species of exotic pest flies, each baited with an irresistible sex lure that will draw in a fly if it’s somewhere in the vicinity. (Don’t worry, it’s not going to bring in flies where they aren’t already hanging around.) You may have seen some of these white triangular traps hanging on trees here and there. They’ve been around for years, silently guarding our crops from outbreaks.

Every once in a while, a fly shows up in a trap. Then FDACS goes on alert, sets out a bunch more traps around the area of the find, and monitors. Usually no more are found, and that is that.

This time, however, they found 5 locations close to each other where there this fly had set up shop, and they found, not just 1 fly, but at the worst location, 45 in a single trap! This meant they were breeding. It was a call to mobilize. You’ve never seen government agents, both from USDA and from FDACS, move so fast into position to set more traps and start canvassing the area to find out exactly where they are. Following a proven protocol, they defined a core boundary area within 1/2 mile of each find, a larger treatment area around the cores, and declared a quarantine area reaching out 4.5 miles in every direction from the core area. And they’ve stepped up monitoring a little outside the quarantine area too, just in case.

The absolute best way to treat this kind of invasion, they’ve found, is to use these same irresistible lures in baited traps. For the Oriental Fruit Fly (OFF), the lure is methyl eugenol, a naturally occurring substance that acts as a pheromone male OFF flies simply cannot resist. Where they have found females, a different type of trap, using a yeast-based lure, is set. Nearby trees are stripped of their fruit, and the soil beneath and around the immediate area is drenched with a poison to kill larva. Why the soil? Well, the female lays eggs in the fruit. The larva hatch, and before they’re ready to pupate, they fall to the ground and move into the soil. There they hatch into new flies. So to make sure the cycle is completely broken, they have to poison the soil. Sad but necessary.

In the meantime, fruit is NOT allowed to move around in the quarantine area, unless and until it is treated is a way to eliminate the possibility of inadvertently spreading the flies.

What does this mean to you? If you’re a homeowner in the quarantine area or have friends who live there, the simplest, best thing while the quarantine is in effect is:

1) Do not take fresh fruit off your property.
2) Do not accept fresh fruit from another property, not even your nana’s house.
3) Eat it on the property – have food parties!
4) Process it in your kitchen – freeze it, juice it, cook it, make jams & jellies. Once you’ve done that, you can take the finished product off the property without fear.
5) Dispose of all scraps and peelings in the approved way – double-bagged, sealed and placed in a covered garbage can that will go to the landfill.

For commercial or hobby growers, if you anticipate a large crop of something that is one of the 400+ listed hosts (avocados, squash, pitaya, for example), you can start a 30-day pre-harvest treatment protocol. Once 30 days have passed AND no flies were found near you, you can begin to harvest, while continuing the treatment. There are a couple of approved USDA treatment options, once of which IS approved for use in organic production.

The other option when harvesting, is to use a post-harvest treatment. There are very few treatments approved by the USDA for this purpose, and they mainly involve the use of methyl bromide with or without chilling for many days, or irradiation. Each type of fruit has its own protocol, and these treatments are not guaranteed to keep the fruit in good condition! For instance, most Florida avocado varieties simply cannot sit in refrigerator temperatures for days – it spoils the fruit and turns it brown. None of the post-harvest treatments are approved for use in organic production.

Nurseries and gardeners need to be careful. If potted plants are growing underneath fruit trees, the soil in the pots must be drenched with the poison to make sure no larvae dropping from above are lurking in the soil. If the plants are growing in a greenhouse or in the open away from trees, it’s not an issue and no special precautions need to be taken, other than to make sure no fruit is left to grow on the potted plants (young fruit trees shouldn’t be allowed to set fruit anyhow-while attractive to a potential customer, it’s like expecting an 8-year-old to have a child-damaging to the parent.

Anyone involved in production, handling, packing or selling of host plant materials (fruits, fruiting veggies, some ornamentals, palms, etc) in the quarantine zone or needing to transport in or out of the zone, needs to fill out a Compliance Agreement.

For extensive information about the fly, the quarantine areas, maps, rules, available treatments, latest finds, and more visit the Division of Plant Industry website at: http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Plant- Industry/Pests-Diseases/Exotic-Fruit-Flies/Oriental-Fruit-Fly-Information

For help in completing the simple compliance agreement, reporting suspect flies, improper movement of fruit, or general information contact the HOTLINE at 888-397-1517.

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Oriental Fruit Fly

Article written on September 11, 2015 by:

Jeff Wasielewski, Commercial Tropical Fruit Agent, Miami-Dade, UF/IFAS Extension

The Invasion

Sometime before dawn on Wednesday, September 2, 2015, a quarantine went into effect in a 85 square mile area of the Redland housing packing houses, tropical fruit groves, vegetable fields, fruit stands, plant nurseries, and homes. The quarantine is serious business, and a multi-million dollar agricultural industry is at stake.

The quarantine went into effect 24 hours after a public announcement was placed in The Miami Herald, and was prompted by Florida Rule 5B-66, which states “State and federal agricultural officials are mandated to keep the Oriental fruit fly out of this country. Wherever Oriental fruit flies are found in the continental U.S., the pest must be eradicated.”

Tens of thousands of traps lie waiting throughout Florida at any given time with the sole purpose of alerting the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) to the presence of the Oriental Fruit fly and other invasive and destructive species of fruit flies. The FDACS website lists seven previous oriental fruit fly finds and subsequent eradications in Florida.

The Oriental fruit fly, Bactrocera dorsalis, is taken extremely seriously because the species has massive host list of 435 plants; they are the strongest fliers of all the fruit flies, and one female fly lays an average of 600 eggs in 30 days. According to Mark Fagan, the public information specialist of the Division of Plant Industry, a specialized division within FDACS, 30% of females can push out a whopping 50 eggs in a single day, or 1,500 eggs in 30 days.

Females lay their eggs in host fruit or vegetables, then the young hatch and feed on the fruit, effectively making the fruit impossible to sell and unpalatable. The larvae then enter the soil below them, pupate, and emerge as flies to begin the cycle yet again. This fly has the power to completely devastate the multi-million dollar agricultural industry in South Florida and trigger regulations that would cripple the industry and put thousands upon thousands of jobs in jeopardy.

Past finds of the Oriental fruit fly did not trigger quarantines because the number of flies was minimal with the previous high being 12 males and 4 females found in Tampa in 1999.

The Redland invasion of 2015 was markedly different because of the extraordinary quantity of flies captured. After finding a lone male fly in a trap on August 17, outside of the quarantine area, FDACS later found an immediately alarming 45 male flies in a single trap on August 28. The historic 45 fly find was located in the heart of our agricultural industry in South Florida. Male flies are the first to be captured because the traps use a pheromone that tricks the males into thinking he is near a receptive female.

Enhanced trapping and scouting soon turned up even more males, as well as a mango fruit infested with Oriental fruit fly larvae. Co-incident Commander Bryan Benson, of FDACS, called these finds, “an unprecedented amount of Oriental fruit flies…with the capacity to devastate the local agricultural industry.”

FDACS, the USDA, Miami-Dade County, UF/IFAS Extension, and the University of Florida’s Tropical Research and Education Center have worked together, and readily shared information and resources to educate all interested parties about the rules and effects of the quarantine.

The response from the agricultural industry has been tremendous. The Miami-Dade Extension office has already hosted five workshops dedicated to educating the industry, with over 600 people in attendance that were there just so they could do the right thing and help to stop the fly from spreading.

Quarantine Facts:

• A compliance agreement needs to be filled out and signed, in person, with FDACS regulatory staff for any fruit, vegetable growers, packers, or sellers/stands located within the quarantine area that wish to sell or move any of the 435 host plants, vegetables, or fruits during the quarantine. Parties outside of the quarantine area that want to move produce into the area to pack or sell, must also sign a compliance agreement.

• Some nurseries within the quarantine area need to sign a compliance agreement. You can still buy plants from these nurseries as long as the grower has signed the agreement or is selling a product that is not regulated under the quarantine (soil, mulch, rocks, fish, wood products, or any plants that are not near or under a fruit fly host tree or have host fruit on the plant).

• Homeowners located within the quarantine zone cannot move fruit or vegetables on the host list off of their property. They can grow and eat the produce at their home, but cannot, under any circumstance, move the produce off their property until the quarantine is lifted.

• It is possible to sell and buy produce within the quarantine area if the vendor has signed a compliance agreement and is taking the proper precautions (covering produce with approved mesh, bags or cases). If in doubt, ask the vendor if they have signed a compliance agreement.

• Homeowners and fruit and vegetable growers outside of the quarantine area, or not affected by the quarantine because their crop is not in season, do not have to, or need to, spray any additional pesticides, or bait spray. Baits and sprays are part of the compliance agreement, but do not affect others, especially homeowners, and are not needed or recommended.

Stopping the Oriental Fruit Fly

The rules and regulations regarding the quarantine are difficult to complete and understand, but they are necessary to stop the Oriental fruit fly from jumping out of the quarantine area and making life even harder, if not impossible, for the hardworking farmers and agricultural community of the Redland. These men and women are your neighbors and often visit my office completely drenched in sweat after working countless, difficult hours in the fields tending to their crops.

The silver lining could be the fact that the trap and kill program designed for the Oriental fruit fly is, in the words of DPI’s Mark Fagan, “extraordinary”. FDACS men and women are working seven days a week to hang baited traps, strip trees of fruit in the “hot zone”, and to eradicate this destructive fly completely.

This can all go away if the traps remain empty for two full life cycles of the fly. The lifecycle fluctuates based on climatic conditions with hotter temperatures producing lifecycles around 30 days and cooler temperatures pushing the cycle nearer to 45 days. If all goes well, the quarantine could be over by late November or early December.

The Redland is an area unlike any other on the planet. It is home to an incredible array of tropical fruit and vegetables, with crops as well knows as avocados and squash, and as unique as sugar apples and winged beans. Vegetable fields and fruit groves are intermixed and produce crops side by side tended by people as varied and diverse as the very crops they grow. That one of a kind diversity could be lost if the Oriental fruit fly permanently sets up shop in the Redland, so let’s all work together to not let that happen.

Information:

For the quarantine map, a list of the 435 host plants, a copy of the compliance agreement, and more information on the Oriental fruit fly, visit the Fresh From Florida website.

Call the Fresh From Florida Helpline at 1-888-397-1517 to request to be visited to sign a compliance agreement.

Contact Miami-Dade Extension Commercial Tropical Fruit Agent, Jeff Wasielewski, at 305-248-3311, ext. 227 for more information regarding the quarantine and the compliance agreement.

Download the OFF Quarantine Map.

Download the OFF Host list by scientific name.

Download the FDACS Compliance Agreement Cooperative Fruit Fly Eradication Program

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The Florida Dept. of Agriculture’s Small Farm Subcommittee has recommended changes to minimize costs for small farms while ensuring food safety.  This is a great step towards “right-sizing regulations” that impact Florida’s small farmers.

A number of small farms in Florida have provided input to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and we believe these recommendations could help bring you more items like eggs and honey for sale at the farmers market.

If you buy food from small local farmers, if fresh local food is important to you, then please tell Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam Putnam, to keep up the good work! We want to thank him for paying attention to small farmers and encourage him to implement the recommendations of the Subcommittee.

To read the petition letter and sign it online, please click on the link below and enter your information on the left.  Hit the red “Sign” button when you are done.

http://www.change.org/petitions/keep-up-support-for-florida-small-farms

Help us get to 10,000! Pass this link on to your friends, fellow farmers market shoppers and fresh local food eaters!  We want to get to 10,000 signatures so we can show the Commissioner how many thousands of Floridians care about small farms.

We’ve heard from the Deputy Commissioner that our letters are making a big difference in helping to keep small farms on the Dept. of Ag’s agenda for the coming year (keeps a buzz in their ear at a time when other priorities are competing).

Thanks for your support!

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