I love cherries! Especially sweet cherries. They’re delicious fresh, high in fiber, and loaded with vitamins, minerals, and beneficial antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which may lower your risk of developing certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and/or obesity.
Growing consumer education about the antioxidant health benefits of cherries appears to be creating increased demand for the fruit. Domestic cherry consumption in the United States is now around 2 pounds per person per year.
The United States is the second largest cherry producing country in the world (Source: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Resource Center). The two types of cherries grown for harvest in the US are sweet cherries, which are best enjoyed fresh, by the handful, and tart (sour) or pie cherries, used in baking and for processing jams and jellies. Sweet cherries are available now at grocery stores, roadside farm stands, and farmers markets.
According to the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) Pesticide Management Education Program (PMEP), NY state fruit growers have 750 acres planted in sweet cherries and 2600 acres planted in tart cherries. 1.4-million pounds of sweet cherries, with a cash value of $1.35 million, and 14 million pounds of tart cherries, with a cash value of $2.2 million, are harvested annually (pmep.cce.cornell.edu/fqpa/
PMEP notes that cherry trees host a wide variety of insect pests. And now there’s another to add to that list; Rhagoletis cerasi; the European Cherry Fruit Fly (ECFF); a native to Europe and parts of Asia, where it’s recognized as the single-most serious pest of cherries. Damage associated with ECFF is caused by larval feeding in the fruit pulp. For the American sweet and tart cherry industries, which have a combined harvest value of $873 million, the potential for loss is staggering. If unmanaged, ECFF can cause a 100 percent crop loss (source: NY State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM)).
ECFF was first discovered in North America in June of 2016, in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. The following summer, presence of the invasive insect was confirmed in the United States. A total of 51 flies were captured in Niagara County, NY, in traps placed in sweet cherry trees, as well as in wild honeysuckle and chokecherry, which also host the insect. A quarantine was quickly established by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), in cooperation with NYSDAM. As of January 2020, the quarantine area has been expanded to include all of Niagara, Erie, and Orleans Counties; a 1,969 square mile quarantine containing approximately 534 acres in commercial cherry production. APHIS has applied safeguarding measures and restrictions on the interstate movement or entry into foreign trade of regulated articles from the area.
The Cooperative European Cherry Fruit Fly Program; a control program put into place by APHIS and NYSDAM to suppress and control this invasive insect pest; is currently focused on preventing spread, but not eradication. Officials are expanding surveillance to areas in New York and Michigan along the Canadian border, and in parts of Pennsylvania where tart cherries from the Niagara area are processed. If ECFF establishes itself in New York and spreads to other parts of the country, it could threaten commercial cherry production in the Northeast (New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland), in several Western and Central States (Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, and Utah), and along the Pacific Coast (California, Oregon, and Washington), and affect US access to foreign cherry markets, resulting in lower prices and economic losses for American cherry growers.
What You Can Do
APHIS and NYSDAM are asking home and property owners to help them track the spread of the invasive insect in the State. In order to determine if there is evidence of ECFF in the North Country, they are seeking locations in our region where honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) and/or any species of cherry (Prunus spp.) are growing. If you have these species growing in your yard or on your lot, you can assist with efforts to control the spread by allowing a plant protection technician to access your property, in order to place and monitor insect traps targeting the pest. The traps are 6” by 8”, with a small pheromone lure in a yellow plastic canister attached. They are hung approximately 8-feet off the ground in or near a potential host plant and checked every two weeks through early October.
If your property meets the criteria and you are willing to allow a trap to be hung, please contact Vanessa Case, who is acting as the USDA Plant Protection & Quarantine Technician for this project, by emailing [email protected] or by calling 518-837-7060.
NOTE: If/when you travel to Canada, be advised that you may not bring cherries from Ontario into the United States. Cherries from other Canadian provinces are allowed in, if they are accompanied by a receipt or other document that confirms the fruit’s origin.
Photo: Adult European Cherry Fruit Fly – Note its bright black thorax, yellow scutellum, characteristic wing pattern, and a size of 5mm, females (left); 4mm, males (right). Source: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute