Bactrocera dorsalis

Spanish olive oil pro­ducer Castillo de Canena has awarded their third Luis Vañó International Research Award to a study focused on an effi­cient, eco­nom­i­cally viable and envi­ron­men­tally friendly method for olive fruit fly con­trol. The win­ning study was car­ried out by the University of Córdoba’s AGR 163 research group, and the International Campus of Food and Agriculture (ceiA3).

Faculty of the University of California at Davis and the University of Jaén were invited by Castillo de Canena to par­tic­i­pate in judg­ing the papers sub­mit­ted for the com­pe­ti­tion. Four mem­bers from each uni­ver­sity formed the two juries that assessed the papers inde­pen­dently.

The win­ning paper val­i­dated a promis­ing new method for man­ag­ing the biggest prob­lem fac­ing olive grow­ers world­wide.- Dan Flynn, UC Davis Olive Center

Dan Flynn, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the UC Davis Olive Center, told Olive Oil Times that he and Juan Gómez, the rec­tor at the University of Jaén, were “pleased that the two juries scored the papers very sim­i­larly.”

The win­ning study, which spanned four years, explored the use of a fun­gus called Metarhizium brun­neum — a nat­ural enemy of the olive fruit fly — as an organic alter­na­tive to destroy­ing the unwanted insects called Bactrocera oleae.

Used on farms with con­ven­tional cul­ti­va­tion meth­ods, the study’s solu­tion man­aged to reduce the den­sity of fly pop­u­la­tion by 50 per­cent: an impor­tant find­ing given that dam­age done by olive fruit flies can result in up to a 40-per­cent loss in pro­duc­tion.

University of Córdoba researcher Enrique Quesada Moraga

Explained Flynn of the poten­tial impact of the research, “The win­ning paper val­i­dated a promis­ing new method for man­ag­ing the biggest prob­lem fac­ing olive grow­ers world­wide.”

European grow­ers have been under pres­sure to seek alter­na­tives to address the prob­lem after a 2014 direc­tive on the use of sus­tain­able insec­ti­cides. Meanwhile, Californian pro­duc­ers are eager for other options, too.

“California olive grow­ers are keenly inter­ested in find­ing new tools that are effec­tive, sus­tain­able, and afford­able in man­ag­ing the olive fruit fly,” said Flynn. “I expect that many grow­ers will be will­ing to use the soil treat­ment method offered by the win­ning paper.”

The researchers of the study will receive their award, along with €6,000, at Castillo de Canena this April, when the paper’s find­ings will also be pre­sented in a bilin­gual pub­li­ca­tion.


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