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Environment and Outdoors

Pest That Feasts On Broccoli Found In Maine For First Time

An invasive insect pest that can cause significant crop losses for growers of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and kale has been found in Maine, the last New England state to report Swede midge.

UMaine Cooperative Extension says it received reports of broccoli damage in Franklin and Aroostook counties in August. Extension Professional Dave Fuller says it's the tiny Swede midge larvae that cause damage.

“It just prevents broccoli from growing, or it can make for a misshapen heads of cauliflower,” he says. “Kohlrabi doesn't head properly, so basically you can’t sell the crop because one, it's not there, two it's very unappealing looking.”

Fuller says the spread of Swede midge in Maine is so far limited, but expected to continue. He says organic farmers, especially, may find the pest to be challenging.

"Because they don't have the full range of pesticides that are available to conventional farmers, especially systemic pesticides which work throughout the plant," he says. "And most organic farms are quite small, so they don't have the luxury of space needed for a good crop rotation."

But Fuller says experts will be able to learn more about the pest this winter and come up with strategies to deal with it.