Feb 23, 2022
USDA approves $1.2M for navel orangeworm sterile insect technique

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved $1.2 million for navel orangeworm (NOW) sterile insect technology (SIT) program to conduct specific research to better understand various aspects of this important program’s impact on the state’s $6 billion pistachio and almond industries. This funding was above and beyond the amount funded to rear the sterile moths and disperse them in orchards in California. The funding was obtained through a major lobbying effort spearheaded by American Pistachio Growers and supported by other ag groups, such as Western Ag Processors Association.

The funds will go towards examining current knowledge gaps, such as:

  • What amount of NOW sterile flies are needed on a per-acre basis.
  • Can the competitive fitness of sterile flies be improved?
  • Do we have an acceptable NOW monitoring system.
  • What is the relative importance of existing management practices when integrating NOW SIT into a systems approach?
  • Determine NOW population size: mark and recapture studies.
  • Optimize method for producing sterile NOW.
  • Determine optimal release method, e.g., plane vs. drone, vs. field release.
  • Determine the optimal number of SIT insects to package and release per day.
  • Determine the level of SIT population reduction with or without sanitation, pesticide (including biopesticide) that optimized NOW IPM systems.

Photo: Houston Wilson/University of California

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