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DBU supports project in cooperation with 3Win and Hohenheim University

Germany: 300,000 Euro for targeted protection against spotted wing drosophila

If it infests an area, the spotted wing drosophila can threaten total crop failure, which could make life difficult for farmers and winemakers. The fly, imported from Asia, is spreading steadily in Germany due to climate change. So far, it can not be combated in an environmentally friendly way. Existing agents are either ineffective or they kill too many other insects. Focusing on a combination of light and scents, 3win Maschinenbau, currently working with researchers from the University of Hohenheim, is trying to develop a special trap that attracts and kills these flies. The German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU) supports this project technically and financially with around 300,000 euros. "We are specifically protecting the fruit and vine stocks from this immigrant species, while at the same time protecting other insects. This way we contribute to the preservation of biodiversity and help the affected producers," said deputy secretary-general of the DBU, prof. dr. Werner Wahmhoff.

Environmentally friendly means killing spotted wing drosophila without bycatch
Previous approaches to combat the pest are not satisfactory, agrees DBU expert dr. Holger Wurl. Conventional pesticides did not have the desired effect, and the flies continued to lay their eggs in the ripe fruit. Effective control of the immigrant species, however, also endangers beneficial insects such as bees, resulting in less biodiversity. Traps would previously only be used for observation purposes. Mass catchings are considered too expensive. In order to combat the spotted wing drosophila while protecting other insects, 3win Maschinenbau and the University of Hohenheim are planning an environmentally sound trap to combat the pest. With the help of light and scents, the animals are purposefully lured into the trap, where they are killed by short electric shocks.

Massive crop failures on the horizon
Globalization and climate change mean that pests from other parts of the world might also become native here, according to Dr. Wurl. The spotted wing drosophila from Asia has been terrifying the German winemakers and fruit growers since 2009: their high multiplication rate and preference for many types of fruit would make them one of the most dangerous pests in Europe. When they have laid their eggs in ripe fruit and the maggots have developed, total crop failure threatens. In 2014, there were massive harvest losses in Germany. In Mittelbaden alone there were losses of 3 million euros. "Fruit growers and winemakers are already changing their cultivation habits because of this fly. In southern Europe, the endangered autumn raspberries are no longer cultivated. In order to ensure the sustainable existence of the commercial fruit industry, it is urgent to develop new but sustainable production methods that contribute to resource-efficient production and at the same time are economically viable," said managing director of 3win Maschinenbau, Dagmar Wirtz.

Farmers, consumers and nature itself all benefit
The project will include several farms that provide test areas. Their active involvement shows that the development of a fly trap is of the utmost importance for those affected, according to Wahmhoff. In addition, the development of an environmentally sound trap system complies with the goal of sustainable cultivation methods. But it's not only fruit and wine producers who would benefit; if the tests are completed successfully, consumers will still be able to enjoy food stuffs that have not been treated with pesticides, and there will be more biodiversity. 

Wahmhoff: "With projects such as these we want to help to secure our soil, biodiversity and water quality and we want to secure future prospects for commercial fruit growing. This is how we'll try to ensure that future generations can still live in an intact ecosystem.”

For more information:
Dagmar Wirtz
Tel: 0241 9432330

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