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How to control Frit Fly

Frit Fly Facts : The best method for control if you are affected by Frit Fly Damage

I’m getting to know my bugs. Flea Beetle, Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle, Flax Flea Beetle, Aphids, Wheat Bulb Fly, Crane Fly, Frit Fly – it’s all the same to me, add another pestilence to the everlasting list of farmers nemeses.

Meet Oscinella Frit (the Frit Fly). A 2-3mm bug which typically breeds in three generations throughout the year.  The most damaging of Frit Flies is the third generation, who appear in Autumn.   Grass, Oats and late-sown cereals are particularly at risk from Frit Fly damage. Generally, Frit flies feed on decaying plant debris, and attack the newly sown crop. Flies will have laid eggs in old pasture, so the larvae will remain in the soil and effect reseeds.

Frit Fly Frit Fly Larva

Affected plants will have ‘dead heart’ symptoms (for instance a yellow central leaf, which can easily be detached from surrounding leaves) and the crop will generally be thinner.  Larvae enters the small plant and destroys it from within, and upon dissecting an affected plant, you will most likely find larvae/maggot in the stem. Affected establishing crops will be considered at risk if there is more than 10% damage.  Fruit fly develops over the winter months in shoots of grasses and cereals, so ‘dead heart’ symptoms can typically be seen in winter wheat, barley and oats over the course of the winter months.  In terms of the Frit Fly life cycle, in winter months the Frit Fly will feed, and the next generation will emerge in May/June.

The risk of Frit Fly damage can be minimised with the use of ‘break crops’ – particularly when the period between planting and utilisation is more than two months.  Sowing a break crop will disrupt the life-cycle of the fly. The best option is to plough grass following a crop, before sowing a winter crop. If the crop has previously been affected by Frit Fly, an insecticide application is recommended before or at time of drilling. Chemical tools against crop pests are slowly being snaffled, with chlorpyrifos-based insecticides being restricted and the banning of Dursban WG in 2016 – therefore, it may be said that a cultural approach is the now the only approach.

Whichever way you choose to deal with Frit Fly Damage, Agri-Linc are here to support you on your journey and fulfil their mantra of being ‘The Linc you can Trust ™.  We always enjoy hearing from you, and wish you every success this Winter.

Images courtesy of Bayer Crop Science UK & PACE Turf

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