Farmers weary on tactics to remove moths


State officials last week abandoned the idea of aerial spraying, and said they would dispatch millions of sterile moths to eradicate the pest instead, but it won't happen until next year

Monterey county has a nearly $4 billion-a-year agriculture industry. It's called the salad bowl of the world but traps in that salad bowl have also turned up nearly 3,000 light brown apple moths.

Bob Perkins of the Monterey County Farm Bureau says the state's switch in strategy to eradicate the pest is not entirely welcome news.

"Any delay concerns us, but we have to rely on the experts at CDFA and USDA that they've taken this into account in proposing this program," says Perkins.

The new plan to attack the light brown apple moth involves releasing millions of sterile moths. The moths are being produced at a USDA lab in Albany and will be ready for a pilot release next year.

Jason Smith is a grape grower in Monterey County who was hit by a quarantine last year that could have cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the end, his harvest was cleared for shipment, but he's worried about being hit with another quarantine before the sterile moths are even released.

"Especially in the grape industry, we've got one harvest a year, and if we can't hit it, were out all that money," says Smith.

The state is promising vigilance and says it's not simply waiting for its new weapon.

"We're going to continue with the twist ties and some of the ground applications where we see heavier populations of the larva," says Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura.

While growers are confident the aerial spraying of a synthetic pheromone was safe, it generated so much controversy, the manager of McShanes Nursery in Salinas says it's fine with him that the state opted out of that approach.

"I don't know what good it did and what it didn't do. I'm not a scientist, but to me it didn't seem like it did very much. In the long run, it's just better not to do the spraying," says Anthony Gonzales.

The agriculture industry doesn't mind waiting for sterile moths. What they don't want is more quarantine areas.

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