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New Weapon Against Cranberry Pests

July 14, 1999

BOSTON (AP) _ Who knew sex could be such a powerful weapon against hungry cranberry-eating pests?

A new pest-fighting weapon interferes with the moths’ mating rituals, resulting in fewer of the dreaded Sparganothis fruitworm.

``Moths are going to have to take lots of cold showers,″ said Jeffrey LaFleur, executive director of the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association.

With 14,400 acres of bogs, Massachusetts is the second-largest producer of cranberries in the nation, producing 1.8 million barrels a season. Wisconsin produces 2.5 million barrels.

The fruitworms can be devastating to a cranberry crop, infesting and destroying up to 50 percent of a bog in a bad year. They burrow into the fruit, munching their way from one to the next, rendering the cranberry useless as food or drink.

The latest antiworm device uses the insect’s own pheromones, which control sexual desire, to lead the bug astray.

Moths mate around this time of year, producing eggs that turn into the worms that feast on cranberries between late summer and early autumn.

Scientists were able to replicate the pheromones released by the female moths to attract males for mating. The pheromones have been bottled in liquid form, for all practical reasons an insect perfume.

The liquid is then mixed into a cranberry bog’s irrigation system, sending the moths into a blind sexual tizzy.

The males smell the females, but because the scent is everywhere, they can’t find the potential partners (unless, of course, they are fortunate enough to bump into one).

The result: fewer eggs are laid, and that translates into fewer of the berry-eating worms, said LaFleur, who sounds positively gleeful as he discusses the insect’s demise.

Where the pheromones leave off, the worms’ predators _ such as wasps _ take over. LaFleur predicts the fruitworm could disappear from Massachusetts cranberry bogs over several years.

This season, a handful of growers are testing out the pheromone on several hundred acres of Massachusetts bogs.

The product is nontoxic to other species and to humans, said LaFleur, whose organization represents about 80 percent of the cranberry growers in the state.

___

HAYS, Kan. (AP) _ A smaller wheat crop in northwest Kansas, combined with dismal prices, means trouble for many farmers here who were hit hard by hail before the harvest began.

And even in southwest Kansas, where the harvest was more bountiful, many farmers are opting to sell at low prices rather than store their crops.

At Garden City, the Johnson Co-op is already full and piling grain on the ground _ with corn harvest expected in just 60 days. The elevator has been shipping grain for storage to terminals in Kansas City, said grain accountant Jerry Popejoy.

Farmers have already sold 25 percent of their grain at the Johnson Co-op, he said.

The Scott Co-op in Scott City has also seen heavy selling, with farmers there selling 20 percent of their harvest rather than store it in hopes that prices will improve.

Junior Strecker, general manager of the Scott Co-op, said farmers are selling so much because of loan deficiency payments. There are no incentives to hold the grain.

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