“The silk fly is probably our greatest problem in sweet corn research, and it’s also the biggest problem we’re having out in the commercial fields right now,” said Robert Beiriger, a bioscientist at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Beiriger said chemicals are currently the only management system available to help fight silk flies, which is why he and other researchers are working on new ways to protect against this pest. He explains that once the adult flies lay their eggs in the crop, there is nothing to do to regain pest control.
Without chemicals, Beiriger said there would not be an industry for sweet corn due to this insect. Once the silk flies infest the crop, they make the corn look unappealing, making this pest a concern for the field and the market.
Due to the silk fly’s ability to adapt and resist chemicals, it makes it harder for the researchers to get ahead. “We’re trying to stay one step ahead of the diseases and insects, and it’s a constant battle,” Beiriger said.
Breeding is the next possibility when protecting growers against this pest. Beiriger said he is looking at resistance to this pest in the silk of the sweet corn. He said this resistance would be natural and not contain genetically modified organisms.
Finding a management system without or with fewer chemicals would be beneficial to the grower, as well as the environment, Beiriger concluded.
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