Fruit fly deals 'blow' to some local olive-oil producers
Some artisanal olive-oil producers in the Sacramento region and beyond report that the tiny olive fruit fly is sabotaging their fruit yields. If you own fruit-bearing olive trees at home, they say, there’s something you can do to help them.
“A lot of people have been growing the trees as ornamental landscaping or because they think they can sell their fruit to a grower for oil,” said Annette Schoonover, co-owner of Winterhill Farms, the award-winning olive-oil producer based in Placerville. If homeowners don’t harvest the fruit, it becomes a breeding ground for olive fruit flies. The female fruit flies lay one or more eggs in the fruit.
Winterhill lost 40 percent of its fruit last year because of the olive fruit fly, Schoonover said, and it troubles her that some government organizations are giving homeowners discounts on their water bills if they plant olive trees. The trees are seen as both drought-tolerant and ornamental. At the UC Davis Olive Center, executive director Dan Flynn suggested that policymakers specify that the discount applies to olive tree varieties that do not bear fruit.
Flynn and his associates fielded an increase volume of calls last year from distressed owners of small olive groves in Napa, Sonoma and Yolo counties.
“I heard one or two cases where the grower felt they had essentially a total loss, where it wasn’t worth them sending out a crew to sort out which were damaged and which weren’t,” he said. “Some were wondering whether they even ought to be taking out their groves as a result.”
That idea seemed too drastic to UC Davis researchers. Instead, they coached growers on the variety of treatments and tools available to manage the pests. They have posted information online at ipm.ucdavis.edu.