- Although the effectiveness of using radio waves to kill
destructive insects in agricultural products has been known for 70 years,
the technique has never been applied on a commercial scale. For several
decades, methyl bromide has been a mainstay treatment to kill a wide array
of quarantined pests.
- A recent cooperative effort by four Agricultural Research
Service research laboratories and two universities aims to overcome the
technical barriers to use of radio wave heating to control pests on a commercial
scale in places such as orchards, packinghouses and food plants.
- Electromagnetic waves of radio frequency can make molecules
vibrate and heat up, in the same way that microwaves heat food. The trick
is to kill pest insects without killing the taste or texture of the food
- Since 2000, a team led by Juming "Jimmy" Tang
of Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman, involving four ARS laboratories
and the University of California-Davis (UC-Davis), has been working on
a four-year study to see if radio waves would be an economical, environmentally
friendly alternative to the use of methyl bromide and other chemicals to
effectively rid fruits and nuts of live insects.
- At the Kika De La Garza Subtropical Agricultural Research
Center in Weslaco, Texas, ARS entomologist Guy J. Hallman is investigating
the use of radio frequency treatment of citrus against the Mexican fruit
fly. Hallman is developing a device to simulate what's needed to commercially
heat-treat citrus fruit, such as oranges and tangerines, with radio waves.
- In cooperation with a team led by Tang, a professor in
biological systems engineering at WSU, James D. Hansen, an entomologist
at ARS' Yakima Agricultural Research Laboratory in Wapato, Wash., plans
to "bathe" tubs full of apples and cherries with radio waves
to determine exposure times that will kill codling moth larvae without
affecting the fruit's quality. Hansen is working with Stephen R. Drake,
a horticulturist at ARS' Tree Fruit Research Laboratory in Wenatchee, Wash.,
and Lisa G. Nevens, an ARS entomologist at the Wapato laboratory.
- Meanwhile, at the ARS San Joaquin Valley Agricultural
Sciences Center in Parlier, Calif., entomologist Judy A. Johnson is testing
the use of this technology to rid walnuts, almonds, pistachios, figs and
raisins of the wiggly larvae of the navel orangeworm, Indianmeal moth and
- Read more about this research in the February issue of
Agricultural Research magazine on the World Wide Web at: http://www.ars.
- ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
- ARS News Service
- Agricultural Research Service, USDA
- Alfredo Flores 301 504-1627 firstname.lastname@example.org