Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Department

Environmental Program

First Advisor

Katharine Anderson

Second Advisor

Rachel Schattman

Third Advisor

V. Ernesto Méndez

Keywords

Drosophila suzukii, SWD, management, exclusion netting, support structures, outreach material, Agroecology

Abstract

The new pest, Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD), poses a formidable threat to blueberry growers and other thin-skinned fruit growers in the United States. It lays its eggs inside of ripening fruit, rendering the berries unsalable. The yield loss due to SWD damage has already caused considerable economic impact since its arrival in the United States in 2008. It was found in Vermont in 2011, where blueberries are an important crop, and as such, growers need support adapting their management strategies. Fine mesh netting can be used to physically exclude the fly from ripe blueberries. This is a promising option for Organic growers, who are limited to only one effective, Organic-approved chemical control. Netting could represent one more tool in an integrated pest management program. Given the novelty of the emergent SWD situation, little research had previously been done to answer questions surrounding netting technology in the context of blueberry growing. This project sought to answer the questions: What are the advantages and challenges of using insect netting on blueberries? What would be an ideal way to trellis netting over a support-structure? What are some practical, relevant pieces of information that other farmers have to offer about this technology? In researching these questions, the goal was to address the lack of information about using physical control as a management strategy to protect small- and medium-sized blueberry farms from SWD. It was found that the major challenges were how netting limited access to the blueberry field, altered the harvest experience, and could be hard to handle. Some advantages found were its potential ability to exclude other wildlife pests, and how it may ripen the berries earlier. However, these two advantages need to be researched further for verification. Similarly, the project produced three suggestions for how to trellis the netting on supportive structures. A field scale trial would be needed to validate these suggestions. Lastly, an outreach document was prepared that included the three suggested support-structure designs, information about available insect netting brands, and some practical advice gathered from farmers over the course of this research. Of great benefit to this growing body of research would be a field-scale trial that tested the suggested support-structure designs, studied the two previously mentioned advantages, and developed an in-depth cost-benefit analysis of fine mesh exclusion netting for small- and medium-sized blueberry operations in Vermont.

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