Yuma Date Organization Helps Fund Study To Combat Weevil

Published: Monday, November 27, 2017 - 5:00am
Updated: Monday, November 27, 2017 - 10:50am
(Photo courtesy Center for Invasive Species Research - UC Riverside)
A dead Canary Islands date palm tree (left) killed by the South American palm weevil next to a healthy date palm in San Diego County, Calif.

Farmers are on the lookout for a pest that could ruin dates in Arizona. And no it’s not on Tinder.

While there hasn't been a live date weevil found in Yuma yet, where Arizona's dates are grown, farmers there are battling the insect that could leave a mark on the growing industry.

The Arizona Department of Agriculture said it has 800 traps out to monitor for the insect, and found one dead weevil in 2015.

That hasn't stopped local growers from being as proactive as they can.

The weevil is a bug that can destroy the desert plant and was found in California six years ago, coming from Mexico.

Arizona State University food business researcher Carola Grebitus studied the local date market on a specialty crop grant. 

“The date industry in Arizona has been booming," Grebitus said. "We’ve seen a lot of growth in recent years, and I think there’s a lot of potential for the producers and also for the consumers.”

There is a major date producer in Yuma, called Bard Valley, helping fund a study to develop new pesticides for the weevil.

Grebitus studied consumer interest in Arizona-grown dates, and found they fetch a premium at market.

“I think it fares well because we are in the desert, right? When you think of date production you think of the desert, you think of palm trees because it’s coming mainly from the Middle East," she said. "So I think we can start marketing it as really coming from Arizona so it’s a domestic product.”

The weevil is considered a major threat to palm trees.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect the latest information attributed to the Arizona Department of Agriculture concerning the date weevil in Yuma.

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