Scientists get $300K to protect MI cherries from pest

Leelanau County cherries
Montmorency tart cherries are the next to be shaken off a tree duirng the annual harvest at a Cherry Bay Farm orchard in Leelanau County, Friday, July 24, 2009. The tart harvest is about two weeks behind the usual start dates, due to chilly, wet summer weather. (AP photo-John L. Russell)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State University scientists have received $300,000 in grants to research protections for the state’s cherries from an invasive fruit fly.

The funding will support efforts to fight spotted wing drosophila, which industry surveys say ruined 21 percent of Michigan’s cherry crop in 2016.

Half the money is coming from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a nonprofit established under the 2014 federal farm bill. Michigan State, the Michigan Cherry Committee and the Michigan State Horticulture Society are matching the foundation’s grant.

Michigan produces two-thirds of the nation’s supply of tart cherries, or more than 200 million pounds.

Growers are taking costly measures to protect their crops from the pest.

Scientists will study pesticide application techniques, develop maps for sharing data on outbreaks and step up outreach to farmers.