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State Agriculture Secretary William J. Lyons, Jr. To Speak at Annual Fruit Fly Symposium Sept. 14

State Agriculture Secretary William J. Lyons, Jr. To Speak at Annual Fruit Fly Symposium Sept. 14

(September 7, 1999)

William J. Lyons, Jr., secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, will discuss California's efforts to manage fruit flies and other exotic pests at a public presentation scheduled for noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14, at the University of California, Riverside.

Lyons will serve as keynote speaker for the annual Exotic Fruit Fly Symposium organized by the University of California Center for Exotic Pest Research, headquartered at UCR; the California Department of Food and Agriculture; the California Citrus Research Board; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As part of his remarks during a noon luncheon, Lyons is expected to address coordinated efforts among five states - New Mexico, Florida, Arizona, California and Texas (NFACT) - to prevent and stem infestations of non-native pests.

Insect pests like the red imported fire ant and Africanized honey bee have been grabbing headlines as they advance into Southern California urban communities and threaten city dwellers with their stings. But another group of "exotic" insects - fruit flies - is considered a major threat to California's $26.8 billion agricultural industry.

On Sept. 14 some of the nation's leading scientists studying fruit flies will share their recent findings aimed at combating invasions of these insects, known as "exotics" because they are not native to California. Exotic insects migrate into the state or hitch a ride on planes, trains, trucks, ships and automobiles carrying agricultural products.

Among the topics will be fruit fly eradication strategies, development of new trapping methods and potential biotechnology solutions to such pest invasions. Participating scientists will also discuss future research priorities.

A target for much of the research is the Mediterranean fruit fly. A permanent infestation of Medfly would cost California agriculture an estimated $1 billion each year in reduced crop yields, export sanctions and eradication costs. In recent years, the state's primary line of defense has been the weekly release of sterile medflies in Southern California to prevent any undetected medflies from reproducing.

A number of other fruit flies - including the Oriental fruit fly, Mexican fruit fly, Melon fly and Malaysian fruit fly - also pose potential threats to the state's agriculture system.

Lyons, appointed secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture by Gov. Gray Davis in January 1999, has had a long career in agricultural leadership. Since 1993, he has been chair of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Services Agency State Committee for California, overseeing and enforcing national policies for USDA farm program in California. He has also served on a number of commissions and boards, including the California Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors and the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau Board of Directors.

UC's Center for Exotic Pest Research focuses on the unique problems posed by exotic pests and is responsible for coordinating the research and extension response of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The presentation will be held at the UCR Extension Center, 1200 University Ave. in Riverside.

Pre-registration including lunch is $25 per person by Aug. 27; registration at the door is $35. Continuing education credit for pest control advisors is pending.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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