Phil Acock in the Fourayes Fruit Processing plant

Fruit industry comment and insights from Phil Acock

Feb 27, 2017

Let's Talk About Sex

I’ve never been a fan of using gratuitous headlines to attract attention so I promise today is no exception: I really do want to talk about sex; more particularly about sex and the Codling Moth.

In the world of the Bramley apple, the Codling Moth is not considered to be a friend. In fact, it’s the cause of something that’s often referred to as ‘maggoty apples’ which probably tells you why.

The Codling Moth (scientific name Cydia pomonella) is a small Lepidoptera whose caterpillars bore into the apples (and pears, even quinces and walnuts) during mid to late summer.

Once inside the caterpillar is surrounded by a veritable larder that becomes increasingly more attractive as the fruit ripens.

When the fruit is cut open, the tunnel and feeding-damage inside the core are testament to these little creatures’ voracious appetites; and the fruit is rendered unusable. Incidentally, damaged fruits often drop early which is a sure sign that Codling Moth caterpillars are doing their dastardly work.

So, this year we’re trialling a new and natural weapon in the war against our arch enemy. That weapon is sex. You can’t get more natural than that!

Put simply, if we can turn the male Codling Moth off sex, that means no caterpillars; and no caterpillars means no spoilt fruit.

Luckily, we don’t have to get them drunk or make sure there’s a not-to-be-missed football match on at the appropriate time to achieve our goal: those clever people at BASF and Agrovista have developed a rather inventive alternative: their ‘Pheromone Disruption System’.

Female Codling Moths release pheromones which act like a homing beacon that enables ardent males of their species to find them with pinpoint accuracy.

The Pheromone Disruption System works by flooding orchards with enough pheromones to utterly confuse the male Codling Moths whose response to such confusion is, quite understandably, to give up trying to find a mate altogether.

We’ll be starting our own trials of the new system from the end of this April – hanging approximately 1,000 of the small brown pheromone diffusers in our orchard number 24. These should spread Codling Moth confusion throughout the breeding season, resulting in offspring from only the most persistent, ardent (or least confused) males; which is likely to be negligible.

We just can’t wait to keep you up to date with more of the juicy details as our sex story unfolds!

Phil Acock
Managing Director and Mad Scientist at Fourayes; the UK’s number one grower and processor of English Bramley apples and processor of fruits from the UK and across the globe.

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