Fruit-fly pest recorded in British crops for the first time

A pest that has caused widespread damage to fresh-produce crops across the globe has this summer been found in British fruit crops for the first time.

Monitoring programmes for spotted-wing drosophila (SWD), which originates in Asia, have revealed that - as anticipated by the industry - the fruit fly has been found in several locations across southern Britain.

Most of these sightings have been in hedgerows and woodlands adjacent to farms. But the fly has also been found in small numbers in soft-fruit plantations.

Fortunately, an industry-led awareness campaign has helped combat SWD effectively. The application of good hygiene and appropriate control treatments prevented the non-native fruit fly from increasing to a level where it poses any threat to the quality of fruit in the UK. Experts are, however, urging growers to continue monitoring at the start of spring.

British Summer Fruits is leading the industry's awareness campaign. Chairman Laurence Olins said: "We are confident that the short-term issue of this new fly can be dealt with by using lessons from around the world, as well as through our high-profile awareness campaign, new treatments and exciting new research."

He added: "Whilst the fly poses no threat to consumers' health or enjoyment of our berries, we are keen that, as with any new pest, the fly is countered quickly and effectively to save growers the economic consequences of crop losses next year."

The onset of winter will cause numbers of SWD to dramatically decline, although the bugs can survive in cold climates.

Horticulture experts are therefore strongly recommending that growers and technical teams start their monitoring programmes for SWD again and, if necessary, appropriate control treatments when the weather gets warmer in early spring.

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