State officials have quarantined 85 square miles worth of agricultural space, as the oriental fruit fly shuts down crops in South Florida after it was detected in several crops, attacking a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- The problem has infected 400 crops across over 85 square miles
- Officials found 160 oriental fruit flies
- Redland, in Miami-Dade County, South Florida is under quarantine until January, 2016
- If the problem isn’t solved, it can cost the county $700 million
The agricultural area, called Redland, in Miami-Dade County highly contributes to the state’s economy due to its diverse growing potential, ranging from tomatoes to papaya.
The Redland areas are now officially placed under the threat of the oriental fruit fly, with a reported number of 160 found among the crops. According to Adam Putnam, Florida’s agricultural commissioner, the pest now affects more than 400 crops and has an unpleasant habit of laying its eggs inside the infected fruit.
It now threatens a huge variety of exotic fruits, which have seen a growth within the past couple of years, such as avocado, mamey, guavas, passion fruit and sapodilla, along with the more common crops such as tomatoes, beans, squash and peppers. Elimination techniques are now being considered while the Redland area will be under quarantine until January of next year.
If the matter isn’t solved, it can cost the Miami-Dade County around $700 million of their $1.6 billion agriculture industry, and it can be even more damaging to growers and crop owners around South California.
Eight tons of the infected fruits have already been destroyed, but some growers are optioning for irradiating their product before sending it onto the markets, just to make sure. So far, it’s a valid, but highly costly action that might result in further loss, in spite of the fact that it’s been approved by state authorities.
Farmers are already looking to sell their crops, because they do not have the funds to sustain the loss.
According to Putnam, though, they are looking into their options of getting rid of the pest, one being aerial spraying of Malathion, a well known pesticide that damages the insects’ nervous system.
However, it’s held back as the “last, best bullet in the gun” in case all other methods fail first. It can cause nausea, confusion or dizziness, but the substance is EPA approved and has been used before, in 1989 and 1997.
Organic farmers have stated their concerns on its use, which might put them out of business for 3 years if their crops are indeed sprayed. So far, officials are resorting to irradiation methods or others, while some farmers are demanding that the aerial spraying of pesticide should already start before the problem grows worse and expands beyond Redland.
Image source: iaea.org