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East and West Collaboration to Fight Queensland Fruit Fly (10th Dec 2019)

May 27, 2019

Collaboration between the east and the west has strengthened the capabilities of the Goulburn Murray Valley (GMV) to rid the region of Queensland Fruit Fly (QFF).

Area Wide Management has been applied to the two regions to control QFF in the GMV and Mediterranean Fruit Fly (Medfly) in the west, with significant declines in fruit fly numbers in both areas recorded in recent times.

GMV Regional Fruit Fly Coordinator Ross Abberfield recently took up an invitation from the Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (WA DPIRD) to inspect Perth and Carnarvon’s Sterile Insect Technology (SIT) facilities and advise on strategic engagement with grower and community groups as part of the collaboration.

The visit saw Mr Abberfield speak to departmental staff, representatives of the Carnarvon Growers Association (CGA), the Recognised Biosecurity Group (RBG) along with Carnarvon grower and community groups.

Carnarvon Medfly Eradication Project Manager Dr Rosalie McCauley described the visit as mutually beneficial.

“We were very happy to invite Ross Abberfield to visit and assess our program and provide us with some really helpful advice on how we can drive our community engagement to a much higher level to encourage our community and growers to get on-board and eradicate Medfly from Carnarvon,” she said.

One aspect of the information exchange focussed on the community engagement and education strategies undertaken in the GMV to encourage stakeholders to take ownership of the fruit fly issue and responsibly manage the pest on their land and eradicate unmanaged habitat.

“I would like to thank WA DPIRD for this opportunity to see their SIT program in action. We have learned from each other, established bonds and will continue to share knowledge and experiences,” Mr Abberfield said.

Medfly is a declared pest and wide spread in the Carnarvon region and throughout the southern areas of Western Australia. Medfly costs Western Australia’s horticulture industry $10.2 million each year in lost production and control measures.

Since August 2014, the DPIRD has worked with the local growers on the ‘Piloting of New Techniques to Control and Eradicate Medfly from Carnarvon’ project.

This project combines grower and community engagement to improve on-farm hygiene practices with a variety of control activities to reduce Medfly numbers.

Control activities include an area-wide baiting and trapping program and the use of SIT release.

SIT is the rearing of male Medflies that are sterilised and released into the affected area. The wild females that mate with a sterile male produce no offspring. When released in large enough numbers, the release of sterile males can cause a population crash.

The sterile male Medflies are bred and sterilised by x-ray in the South Perth Medfly rearing facility. The flies are then transported to Carnarvon in refrigerated trucks as pupae. The pupae are placed in specialised towers within a custom built facility in Carnarvon until they emerge as adults.

The adults are fed on sugared water for five days before being prepared for a chilled release into the local plantations via a Medfly blower machine. This custom built machine is designed to sit on the back of a farm ute and disperses millions of sterile Medflies as it slowly moves through local plantations.

The project is currently releasing up to five million sterile males in the Carnarvon region each week and the area is experiencing a significant decrease in the number of wild Medflies caught in its trapping grid.

“Despite not currently having a SIT release program in the GMV, we have also experienced a significant spring reduction in QFF numbers caught in our trapping grid,” Mr Abberfield said.“The intensive community awareness and education campaign, deployment of Field Officers to manage ‘hot spots’ and the large scale removal of unmanaged QFF habitat from private and public lands has been instrumental in our progress toward achieving an Area of Low Pest Prevalence here in the Goulburn Murray Valley.

“If we had a SIT release program similar to Carnarvon in targeted areas in the GMV, I believe that wild fruit fly population numbers would decline further, resulting in increased quality of our produce and expanding our export opportunities,” Mr Abberfield said.

The ‘Piloting New Techniques to Control and Eradicate Mediterranean Fruit Fly Project’ has been funded by the Royalties for Regions program, Horticulture Innovation and the Carnarvon Growers’ Association.

The Goulburn Murray Valley Queensland Fruit Fly Project is funded by the Victorian Government’s Managing Fruit Fly Regional Grants Program.

If you are involved in the horticultural industry and wish to work collaboratively or find out more about managing Queensland Fruit Fly contact the GMV Fruit Fly Project office by phone (03) 5871 9222 or email gmvfruitfly@moira.vic.gov.au

Caption: Sterile Medfly Emergence Facility –  Carnarvon. L to R: WA DPIRD personnel Elliot Howse, Rosalie McCauley, GMV Regional Coordinator Ross Abberfield, Keelin Smith