Australian growers have been given a ray of hope as the results of the first year of a sterilised fruit fly pilot project have already opened new markets for some orchards, reports ABC Rural.
In the first year of the three-year trial to manage fruit fly numbers in Stanthorpe, Queensland, the results have shown a 22-fold reduction in wild fruit fly infestation, according to Olivia Reynolds, research entomologist at the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries.
"We've also seen significant amounts of beneficial (insects) with one of the growers actually commenting that he didn't have to spray for anything that bites, sucks or chews for the first time that he could recall,” Reynolds told ABC Rural. "And we have also got market access for the entire crop that year to mainly domestic markets.”
The area-wide sterile insect technique (SIT) programme is taking place on 130ha of stonefruit orchards, with the possibility of the trial being extended in its second year.
"What we have done is a phased approach ... initially we collected some baseline data. We have got an understanding of what we are dealing with such as the population dynamics of the pest,” Reynolds explained. "Then we have gone in with a suppression programme and this has been followed with sterile insect release and we have seen some really fabulous outcomes after the first year."
Reynolds said the results of the first year were encouraging, and offered the potential to roll out a programme across Australia, particularly in light of the recent phase out of pest control chemicals including Dimethoate and Fenthion.
"Even domestically Coles, Woolworths [and other retailers] will not accept fruit if it's infested with fruit fly. So it's key that we manage this pest,” Reynolds said.