Published on 12/14/18

UGA researchers receive $2 million to study organic management of Spotted Wing Drosophila

By Cristina Luisa deRevere

The University of Georgia has been awarded a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture to develop organic methods of controlling the Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD). 

Ashfaq Sial, coordinator of UGA Integrated Pest Management (IPM) a blueberry entomologist at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, is leading this multi-regional research project. 

First detected in California in 2008, SWD is a small fly that has since emerged as a devastating pest of small and stone fruits throughout the U.S. 

A major blueberry pest, SWD can destroy an entire crop and can cause up to $718 million in damage annually. SWD deposit eggs into ripe blueberries and leave the fruit unmarketable. Due to the lack of organic SWD management tools, many growers drop their organic certification and abandon production of susceptible fruit crops. 

With the recent grant funds, the UGA-led team of researchers from multiple institutions will work to develop organic SWD management practices by evaluating new behavioral tactics, improving the effectiveness and feasibility of cultural strategies and incorporating biological control in organic SWD management. The team will also integrate new Organic Materials Review Institute-approved products into season-long IPM programs and develop an integrated outreach approach to implement organic SWD management strategies and evaluate their economic impact.

“In order to maintain organic production of susceptible crops, it is critical to develop new tools to effectively manage SWD in organic production systems, allowing growers to continue organic fruit production while providing society at large with sustainable supplies of organic fruit in the market,” Sial said. “Our long-term goal is to develop, implement and evaluate systems-based organic SWD management programs that are organically acceptable and true to the ethos of organic agriculture.”

Once completed, the new organic control methods will enable organic fruit producers to integrate more behavioral, cultural and biological strategies to minimize crop losses due to SWD infestations and increase farmers’ profitability.

Joining Sial on the project from CAES are horticulture Professor Erick Smith and impact evaluation expert Kay Kelsey. Additional collaborators and their institutions are: Hannah Burrack, North Carolina State University; Kent Daane, University of California Berkeley; Matthew Grieshop and Rufus Isaacs, Michigan State University; Kelly Hamby, University of Maryland; Jana Lee, USDA Agricultural Research Service in Corvallis, Oregon; Oscar Liburd, University of Florida; Jennie Popp, University of Arkansas; Cesar Rodriguez-Saona, Rutgers University; Mary Rogers, University of Minnesota; Bernadine Strik and Vaughn Walton, Oregon State University and Frank Zalom, University of California Davis. 

To learn more on pest management strategies and research, visit the UGA IPM website at

Cristina deRevere is the public relations coordinator for Georgia 4-H.

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