California cherry growers are keeping a wary eye on the spotted wing drosophila, a pest that surfaced last season.

“Growers are very concerned about this,” said Bill Coates, a University of California Cooperative Extension farm adviser for San Benito, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and Monterey counties. “I think it’s going to be more widespread this year.”

Coates said there’s no chance of eradicating drosophila — it’s here to stay.

To deal with it, growers may have to apply insecticide four times a year, instead of once, as many do now.

Having that much pesticide residue on product could mean the loss of some export business, he said.

Japan and Taiwan, for instance, have strict regulations on allowable levels of some pesti-cides.
Tim Pelican, deputy agricultural commissioner for Stanis-laus County, said Mother Nature could give California grower-shippers a hand this year in fighting off drosophila.

“It’s been pretty cool, so we haven’t seen a lot of activity to this point,” Pelican said. The colder the weather, he said, the harder it is for drosophila to survive.

That said, not of lot of checking had been done as of April 12, Pelican said. He expected to begin inspecting fields in late April.

In addition to the cooler weather, another encouraging sign has been reports of heavy spraying by growers to protect against the pest, Pelican said.

“There’s been a lot more spraying than last year,” Pelican said.

Nevertheless, because of the large numbers of pests trapped in 2009, the likelihood of there being at least some finds in California, Oregon and Washington this season was high, he said.

Spotted wing drosophilae pierce the skin of soft fruits and lay eggs in them. The discovery of tiny holes on the skin of cherries and maggots in their flesh last year tipped off growers to the issue.