EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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August 5, 2013

Wanted: A no-fly zone

Asian fruit fly threatens local fruit crops

LONDONDERRY — Sunnycrest Farm is on the front line in a nationwide agricultural war against an unwanted pest.

University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension has placed traps on the farm as it monitors a dangerous, spreading threat to valuable crops.

The enemy to farmer Dan Hicks’s livelihood, and the enjoyment of Granite State fruit lovers, is the Asian spotted-wing drosophila.

It harms blueberries and raspberries — both grown at Sunnycrest — and other fruit, including grapes and peaches.

Since 2008, the fly has moved east across the continental U.S. from California, damaging crops along the way.

“This is one nasty fly,” Hicks said. “UNH has been coming down checking our plants for it. So far, so good. We haven’t had to get worried about it yet.”

The fly hasn’t approached nearby Mack’s Apples, farm manager Mike Cross said.

“We haven’t seen it,” Cross said. “We’re being vigilant about it.”

The fly isn’t a concern to Mack’s main crop, apples, but is a worry for peaches.

Cross said the fly likes soft fruits that are easy for it to attack.

“We have 3 acres of peaches we will probably spray,” Cross said.

Peaches generate $50,000 to $60,000 yearly in sales for Mack’s, he said.

Zorvino Vineyards in Sandown also is relieved the fly hasn’t attacked 3 acres of grapes grown for the winery.

“We have not seen any yet,” Zorvino’s Amy Zanello said. “We haven’t been affected.”

UNH Cooperative Extension field specialist George Hamilton said the fly is in both Rockingham and Hillsborough counties, as well as states throughout the nation, including Massachusetts.

“This is a problem countrywide,” Hamilton said.

The fly’s presence in New Hampshire dates at least to 2011. UNH, based on a survey of growers last year, estimated New Hampshire crop losses at $1.5 million.

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