The federal government will allow fruit farmers in New Jersey and six other states to use a special insecticide to stem potential crop losses caused by the brown marmorated stink bug.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, has issued an emergency authorization for the use of dinotefuran – which is used to help control the insects in their native Asia – through Oct. 15.
EPA officials said products containing dinotefuran aren’t registered with the federal government for used in orchards. New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia sought approval to use the pesticide to fight what EPA officials called “an expected explosion in stink bug numbers this year.”
State Department of Agriculture spokesman Jeff Beach said the ability of farmers to use dinotefuran is crucial to preventing significant losses to New Jersey’s fruit crops he said.
“They’re ready to hit season,” Beach said of those fruit crops.
State and federal figures show New Jersey’s peach crop alone was worth an estimated $32.1 million last year. Researchers with Rutgers University estimate the stink bugs could cause about $16 million worth of damage to that crop this year.
The stink bugs arrived in the United States from Asia – they’re native to China, Japan and the Korean peninsula – via an airport in Allentown, Pa., in 1996. They’ve since moved on to other states, causing increasing crop damage in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia.
Stink bugs eat by sucking liquid from fruits and vegetable. They leave behind saliva that breaks down the interior of fruits and vegetables. That leaves a product that customers won’t buy.
In New Jersey, noticeable agricultural damage, particularly in peaches and peppers, related to the stink bug only started occurring about three years ago as a late-season problem. Agriculture officials now estimate that the stink bugs could cause more than $40 million worth of damage to New Jersey’s apple, peach, tomato and green pepper crops that were worth about $117 million in 2010.
Some of the largest concentrations of stink bugs in New Jersey are in Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties. One problem is that stink bugs are resistant to pesticides used as part of integrated pest management systems that took years to develop to protect New Jersey farms from the threat of domestic insects and weeds.
According to the EPA, dinotefuron controls a variety of pests, including aphids, leafhoppers, white grubs, beetles and cockroaches. The pesticide can be used in residential and commercial properties.
Agricultural officials said EPA issues its emergency authorization under a provision of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.