Watsonville growers worried over apple moth

June 16, 2009 7:03:52 PM PDT
In Santa Cruz County, growers are worried about the light brown apple moth. It first appeared there two years ago and now it's damaging valuable crops. The pest and efforts to control it remain controversial.

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In the rich fields of Santa Cruz County, the raspberries are almost ready. This is the season when growers like John Eiskamp might start feeling satisfied, but this year he has a new element of stress.

"It could ruin my whole day. It could ruin a lot of days," says Eiskamp.

The light brown apple moth, which first appeared in this county two years ago, has for the first time moved into crops. They found the apple moths at the end of last month, in two fields, roughly two miles apart. In one field they were growing raspberries, in the other blackberries. The area is maybe 25 acres total, but that is significant.

"Well the urgency is that growers, when this pest is found in their field, cannot ship," says Ken Corbishley.

As county agriculture commissioner Corbishley explains it, the light brown apple moth is a no tolerance pest that essentially shuts down a field. Twenty-five acres this year could easily become more in this region where food crops account for $85 million annually.

"Agriculture has a big impact with banks, housing, sales and storage," says Corbishley.

Critics say this might not have happened, had the city and county of Santa Cruz not stopped aerial spraying with a lawsuit a year and a half ago. Councilman Tony Madrigal told ABC7 they still support the move, "These are our lungs. It should be our choice."

Back among the berries, John Eiskamp did not directly say, "I told you so," but does describe the apple moth controversy as being too political.

"If it were every other pest, we could manage it on an economic level on our ranch and go about our business," says Eiskamp.

Before aerial spraying would return, the court requires an environmental impact report. Meantime, the growers with clean crops count days until harvest.

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