Aug 9, 2012 / 2:06 pm
Fruit growers in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys are hoping to continue as one of the few regions anywhere in North America free from a pest which has plagued orchardists for over 100 years.
The BC Ministry of Agriculture is issuing an appeal for the public's co-operation to help protect valley orchardists from the Apple Maggot, a serious apple pest which has now established itself in the Fraser Valley, Greater Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the prolific insect, first recorded in Ontario in 1896, has now infested crops throughout Canada, the US and Mexico.
The Apple Maggot burrows in all directions through the apple, leaving behind brown channels, each containing a single larvae. The insect also targets crab apples, cherries, pears, plums, and apricots.
When a single fruit is infested with several larvae, the pulp will be honeycombed with their burrows and left misshapen and deformed.
"It's a serious concern," says BC Fruit Growers Association General Manager Glen Lucas.
Not only will the pest threaten crops, it will also lead to more pesticide use.
"This pest would be a step backwards for our industry because there would be a more intensive management of the pests in terms of spraying. We've had the sterile insect release program in place for many years and that's allowed growers to reduce pesticide use," says Lucas.
"There's been a general move to less toxic pesticides, more targeted towards the actual pest and not as toxic to humans."
As a result, all concerned parties are asking the general public to do their part to keep the pest from the valley.
The Ministry of Agriculture is encouraging residents in this area to not bring any fruit (apples, crab apples, hawthorn, pears, plums) or any fruit bins or other containers used to hold apples, out of the Lower Mainland.
"The real problem is, it's likely to be in a residential back yard and get established before anyone realizes it's happening. If it's in an apple orchard, there's a chance that we could control it."
If you're expecting visitors from the lower mainland, you're asked to discourage them from doing the same. Unless those apples are properly disposed of, the Apple Maggot can spread.
"If someone shows up in the middle of Kelowna with a bag of apples and throws them in the garbage can and then they go to a crab apple tree in City Park we won't know," says Lucas.
Instead of composting the fruit, place it in a sealed plastic bag and bury it at least 30 centimetres deep, or take it to the local landfill for burial.
The ministry also cautions against bringing home plants or trees with garden soil that were grown near fruit trees that may have been infected.
Lucas worries these trees could become "pest breeding factories."
Anyone planning to move any host fruit or host trees with soil, or host nursery stock, out of the Lower Mainland is asked to contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency at 604 557-4500.
More information on the Apple Maggot can be found at www.treefruits.ca
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