Growers Need Pest Spotters

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Jeff Herrera

    The fruit on rancher Ben Hillebrecht's 100-acre farm in Escondido is ripening but it can't leave the city.

    “You can pick it and eat it here but you can't ship it to the packing house,” said Hillebrecht.

    Escondido is one of five areas in San Diego County that have been quarantined after discovery of the Mediterranean Fruit Fly.

    Farmers, traditional and organic, are deploying bait to destroy the flies to prevent what some growers say could be hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.

    “If it gets established in California or in San Diego County, there's a huge number of farmers that wouldn't be able to take their products to market,” said Eric Larson with the San Diego County Farm Bureau.

    Farmers and vendors in the area are already incurring costs because they have to cover fruit in plastic bags or nets to keep the flies from laying eggs. Otherwise they could face consequences.

    “The regulators will tell them they can't market that fruit. They'll stand there and make sure they destroy it to guarantee it doesn't get into somebody's hands and move it someplace else,” said Larson.

    Growers say the public can also help eradicate the fruit fly from the county. While it's unlikely, it's still possible that some customers could find fly larvae in their fruit. Growers are hoping people won't simply throw that fruit in the trash.

    "You should immediately bag it up," said Larson. "Seal it. Put it in a sealed tight plastic bag and then save it.” After that, Larson said the "fly spotter" should contact the County Department of Agriculture.

    Medflies attack more than 250 kinds of fruits and vegetables. An infestation could cost as much as $280 million in lost crops countywide.