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Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) in Tomatoes

Judson Reid, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: September 23, 2013

Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) in Tomatoes
Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) has gained notoriety for its impact on berry crops. We are including an update here as it has also been documented to infest tomatoes.

As a brief recap, SWD is a new invasive fruit fly with the unique ability to lay eggs in unripe fruit. The eggs and larvae become crop contaminants, unfortunately often not apparent until post-harvest and sometimes post-sale. So far in 2013 SWD has been confirmed in the Hudson Valley (Ulster and Orange Counties); Northern New York (St. Lawrence Co.), Long Island (Suffolk Co.) and the Finger Lakes (Ontario Co.). These specimens were all caught in traps near berry plantings.  From the wide range of geography and macro-climates of these confirmed findings we can infer that SWD is present throughout NYS.

How much of a threat is SWD to tomato growers? We don't know for sure yet. Initial reports of SWD in tomatoes focused on high tunnels. This may be due to the popularity of heirloom varieties with tunnel growers, as heirlooms are more crack-prone, and thus more attractive to fruit flies such as SWD. The tunnel itself is actually an effective management tool as we'll see below. 

Important work by Marion Zuefle of NYS IPM demonstrated that SWD can lay eggs in healthy tomato fruit under laboratory settings when given no other choice. However, field sampling showed SWD emergence only from damaged fruit. Tunnel tomatoes in this study had no SWD emergence.

What are the implications? Tunnels will likely reduce SWD risk as fruit cracking is much less than in the field. Cherry and grape tomatoes, which tend to have more unharvested, overmature fruit represent higher risk. Heirlooms, which are often marketed with cracks, are also higher risk than tomatoes with intact skin. Any tomato with cracks, regardless of inside or outside, is at higher risk for SWD.

Management steps for SWD in tomatoes:
  • If possible locate tomatoes away from soft fruits such as blueberries or brambles.
  • Harvest tomatoes thoroughly and removed all ripe fruit regularly.
  • Manage irrigation water to reduce cracks.
  • Consider tunnels/greenhouses to increase fruit quality.
  • If the market allows, shift to thicker skinned, less crack prone varieties.
The Cornell Vegetable Program is not at this time recommending the use of insecticides for SWD in tomatoes (unlike berries). A number of the materials berry growers are now deploying against SWD are labeled for other insect pests in tomatoes. But, given the wide range of hosts that SWD appears to prefer above healthy tomatoes, insecticide applications are not merited. An exception maybe in field production of heirlooms, where despite our best efforts, there will be many cracked fruit. 

This story will continue to develop as we learn more each season. Contact Judson if you have questions.

Cornell has an excellent set of SWD resources online.

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Meet with Cornell Vegetable Program Specialist Christy Hoepting every Tuesday morning to ask questions and share your observations about ONIONS!
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This course will demonstrate pest management in fresh market vegetables in both field and greenhouse (high tunnel) vegetables, primarily for those growing for wholesale auction. A hands-on demonstration of weed, insect and disease identification in vegetables including management options such as inter-row cover crops, grafting, and where appropriate, spray options will be used to educate growers. Judson Reid, Senior Extension Associate with the CCE Cornell Vegetable Program along with CCE staff will instruct participants and facilitate peer-based learning. Details on each topic will focus on field observations at these farms. 
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NY Crop Insurance Availability by County & Crops

Apiculture, Dairy-RP, LGM, Nursery, PRF and WFRP policies are available throughout the entire state. A table has been developed showing RMA crop insurance availability by county and crop in New York State.

If a crop is not covered in your county, you may still be eligible for a written agreement for that crop. Please contact an insurance agent to see if this is an option for you.

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The 2019 Cornell Integrated Crop and Pest Management Guidelines for Commercial Vegetable Production are now available!

Written by Cornell University specialists, this publication is designed to offer producers, seed and chemical dealers, and crop consultants practical information on growing and managing vegetable crops in New York State. Topics include general culture, nutrient management, transplant production, postharvest handling, organic production, and managing common vegetable crop pest concerns. A preview of the Vegetable Guidelines can be seen online.

Highlighted changes in the 2019 Vegetable Guidelines include:
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  • New pests: beet armyworm in beets; cabbage looper and tarnished plant bug in lettuce and endive; allium leafminer in onions; and Cladosporium, Cercospora, and Stemphylium leaf spots in spinach.
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