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OSU to aid research on Spotted Wing Fly

CORVALLIS — Oregon State University hopes to aid research on the fruit-damaging spotted wing drosophila, which has been a particular concern of local cherry orchardists, by providing online access to the fly’s newly sequenced genome.

OSU anticipates that scientists will use its new Spotted Wing Fly Base website to develop ways to combat the invasive pest. Since its launch in November, spottedwingflybase.oregonstate.edu has been used by researchers in dozens of countries, said Vaughn Walton, an entomologist with the OSU Extension Service.

“Scientists from all over the world are interested in knowledge locked inside the fly’s genetic material,” he said. “Genes will help reveal the pest’s behavior, pesticide resistance and other biological attributes that will point the direction for future research.”

Oregon State’s website allows researchers to compare the genetic differences between the spotted wing drosophila and closely related drosophila species.

In the process, scientists hope to pinpoint odors and tastes attractive to the fly, potentially leading to the creation of new pheromone-based baits to trap it. They will also try to match the biology of the fly with pesticides that will be more effective.

The genome may also eventually aid American fruit exports, especially to countries fearful of invasion from the pest.

Native to Asia, the fly was first detected in the United States in 2008 and has since spread across the continent. It lays eggs in ripe and ripening fruit, which its larvae eat, causing blemishes that ruin the fruit’s value. Significant losses to fruit crops have been reported in the U.S., Canada and Europe, said Walton, who is an assistant professor in the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences Department of Horticulture.

OSU is leading a collaborative multi-state, multi-agency effort to study the fly through a $5.8 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.

The Spotted Wing Fly Base website was co-developed by Chiu of UC Davis.

More information on the fly is available at www.spottedwing.org.

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