Main research question/goal
This project aims to develop a smart control strategy against a new very harmful pest: Drosophila suzukii or the Asian fruit fly. This insect of Asian origin has entered our country and, since its first observation in 2011, it has been invasively and rapidly spreading across Belgium and is now established in most of its fruit regions. In order to develop a successful control strategy towards the fruit sector, the researchers first want to map a number of key characteristics of this fly and would also like to assemble knowledge on the use of molecular RNA interference technology (RNAi). Based on this knowledge, new efficient, safe and user-friendly control methods are being developed. The Asian fruit fly is particularly threatening because, in contrast to the known fruit flies that prefer only ripe fruit, it also lays its eggs on ripening fruit.Research approach
Because we strive for an integrated approach (IPM - integrated pest management) of the control of D. suzukii in our region, we first study its population dynamics, overwintering strategies, cold / heat tolerance and its fruit type preference and attraction to symbiotic microbiota on the skin of the fruit. Subsequently, we draw up a guideline for the optimal use of the 'mass-trapping' and 'attract and kill' technique based on the gathered knowledge. A user-friendly fruit waste container that simultaneously ensures the practical removal of fruit waste and enables the killing of potentially present D. suzukii stages is being developed. We evaluate the possibilities of the recently developed molecular RNAi technique (particularly for D. suzukii) at lab scale and in the quarantine greenhouses at ILVO.Relevance/Valorisation
The high participation rate of the fruit growers in this research project (of 4 years) is striking. We involve them in every step of the research process and allow them to switch as early as possible from the (initially exclusively) chemical curative treatments to the new control measures. Towards the end of the project (2018), a number of demonstration trials on pilot farms are being planned, showing the developed control measures to the fruit growers. As a result, we expect that the valorization trajectory will be partly accomplished within the target companies during the course of the project. At the end of the research project, the researchers will write accessible information sheets targeted for the the berry and stone fruit sectors. The innovative compost container has potential for commercialization.