Dale-Ila Riggs, president of the New York State Berry Growers Association, has amassed a lifetime of expertise in IPM and berry farming. Combine that with inventiveness, insatiable curiosity, and determination — tackling head-on what could be the berry growers’ worst pest ever — and it’s no surprise she earned a recent Excellence in IPM award.
That worst pest ever? That would be SWD: shorthand for “spotted wing drosophila.” This new, barely visible pest blew into New York in 2012. If you remember your biology, you know drosophila are fruit flies — useful experimental subjects in the lab. In nature most are harmless; after all, it’s fruit well past its prime that they go for.
But not SWD.
SWD, hardly bigger than this comma, sneaks in just as berries ripen. By the time you notice the damage, your crop is unsalable. Riggs wants to reverse that trend.
So while many berry growers dug out entire plantings, Riggs dug in — aggressively seeking Cornell research collaborations and the money to support them. After all, berries are worth $15 million; the market is growing. Per capita consumption of blueberries alone is up 411 percent since 2000. Results? IPM solutions already benefiting berry growers across New York and the Northeast.