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Irbid olive farmers fear smaller yield as fruit fly invades crops

Workers harvest olive fruits in a farm in Jerash in this undated photo. (Photo: Jordan News)
Workers harvest olive fruits in a farm in Jerash in this undated photo. (Photo: Jordan News)
IRBID — With the olive harvest season approaching, Irbid farmers are worried their yield will be affected by a particular pest invading their crops, dubbed the olive fruit fly.اضافة اعلان

“The problem in dealing with this fly is that fighting it after it has already spread is very difficult and expensive, in addition to the fact that it lives in the soil, therefore, plowing the soil increases the possibility of it spreading faster. The farmer finds the problem after its too late, as holes appear on the fruit caused by the small worms after devouring them from the inside," olive farmer Saeed Al-Titi said in an interview with Jordan News.

Faisal Bani Hani, an agricultural engineer in the Irbid Agriculture Directorate, told Jordan News that "so far, olives are not falling off, which means that we are not facing real problem just yet.”

The engineer explained that the issue will become clearer through monitoring carried out by the directorate in cooperation with farmers, through which they can estimate the range of the dissemination of the pest, and determine next steps.

According to agricultural engineer Hisham Al-Omari, who specializes in olive cultivation, this particular fly is common in Mediterranean regions and although its main source is unknown, it is widespread.

“It targets the olive fruits from the inside, making them unusable," Omari said.

The female of this particular fly typically lays about 250 eggs per season, which are most dangerous when they reach the larva stage, during which they penetrate the fruits and feed on them from the inside, which causes losses of up to 100 percent for olives used for pickling, and 80 percent of olive oil, according to Omari.

“This effect is not direct, but appears in the quality and quantity of the olive oil produced,” he added.

"I think that this will be a big problem this season, and the traps that the agricultural directorates provide to farmers are not enough,” the expert conceded.

There are around 282,000 olive trees in Irbid, and 20 million olive trees in Jordan, Omari estimates.

“These large numbers cannot be monitored by the Ministry of Agriculture or the directorates agriculture alone, but there must be cooperation between farmers and the concerned authorities, meaning that it is important for the farmers to start monitoring their trees, and hanging traps that are easy to make at home, and if they feel that there is a harmful percentage of the olive fruit fly, they must go directly to the Directorate of Agriculture where they would provide them with advice, guidance and the necessary pesticides," Omari stressed.

Head of the Plant Wealth Division in Irbid Agricultural Directorate’s Bani Kinana Department, Ahed Obeidat, said that the olive fruit fly can cause annual crop losses of up to 50 percent, “so we usually start distributing the necessary traps to farmers' fields, and monitoring them on a weekly basis, starting in June.”

These traps are either sticky traps, food traps, or pheromone traps, according to Obeidat.

"Things are still under control until now, and we have not received any complaints about a real problem.

Farmers are just afraid, nothing more,” Obeidat added.

Obeidat added that olive farmers suffering from the olive fruit fly are advised to collect all the fallen fruits in the month of September, which should reduce the spread of the pest by 85 percent, as the eggs are usually laid in the soil.

She added that her department provides farmers with a set of instructions on the methods of spraying pesticides and their types, usually advising steering away from chemical pesticides and opting for the partial spraying of organic pesticides only, so as to protect the yield.

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