Western Australia could one day be fruit fly free with a new pilot program aiming to eradicate Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly) in the state's southwest horticulture precinct.
Regarded as one of the major fruit and vegetable pests in the world, Medfly is worth more than $200 million per annum in damages caused to susceptible crops in Western Australia and market access restriction.
The outcome of a pilot program, co-funded by Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL) and the Department of Agriculture & Food Western Australia, is to eradicate Medfly from the state's expanding Carnarvon horticulture precinct by improving the current baiting scheme and releasing sterile male Medflies.
According to HAL Research and Development General Manager David Moore, eradicating Medfly in Carnarvon will reduce ground costs and increase market access nationally and internationally.
'The horticulture sector spends more than $10 million annually on Medfly control, a cost that will only increase as relatively cheap organophosphate insecticides are withdrawn from use,' Mr Moore said.
'This significant co-investment of $1.8 million will fund a new sterile fly emergence facility in Carnarvon which will produce and release more than five million sterile male Medflies per week as part of a fruit fly biosecurity plan for the region. The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) is a proven tool for fruit fly suppression and eradication worldwide, and was successfully used to eradicate Medfly from Carnarvon in the 1980s.
'The anticipated outcome of this project is a fruit fly free area in Carnarvon leading to a reduction in the use of pesticides, increased market access and an expansion in the production of high value fruit fly susceptible crops. The project will be used as a pilot for developing fruit fly free areas, or areas of low pest prevalence, across Western Australia.'
Located 1,000 km from Perth, Carnarvon is surrounded by arid lands without fruit fly hosts and is isolated from other growing areas making it ideally suited for a regulatory program based on community engagement.
The project, which will fund the employment of a dedicated fruit fly biosecurity officer and extension officer both based in Carnarvon, will commence next month.