Ganging up on our Queensland fruit fly

By Riverine Herald

A 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).

Goulburn Murray Valley fruit fly co-ordinator Ross Abberfield recently took up an invitation from the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (WA DPIRD) to inspect its sterile insect technology (SIT) facilities.

Both here and in Western Australia, area-wide management has been applied 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.

Mr Abberfield also advised WA workers 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 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.

Mr Abberfield said one aspect of the meeting focused on community engagement and education strategies undertaken in the GMV that encouraged 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 widespread in Carnarvon and southern areas of WA. Medfly costs WA’s horticulture industry $10.2 million each year in lost production and control measures.

Since August 2014, DPIRD has worked with the local growers on piloting new techniques to control and eradicate medfly project.

Mr Abberfield said one project of interest was 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 DPIRD project is currently releasing up to five million sterile males around Carnarvon weekly 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.’’

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 on 58719222 or email [email protected]