Fruit fly a potential industry wrecking machine

Oct. 6, 2023 | 5 Min read
Fruit fly is the world’s worst fruit pest and when it threatens our multi-billion dollar horticulture industries it is a risk which cannot be ignored

Fruit fly is the world’s worst fruit pest.

And when it threatens our multi-billion dollar horticulture industries it is a risk which cannot be ignored

In the Goulburn Murray Valley (GMV) – which has a regional economy estimated at $8.4 billion – horticulture accounts for a big slice of that despite its $1.7 billion fruit and vegetable production an established host of fruit fly.

This level of fruit fly host plant production represents 44 per cent of the total for Victoria and 34 per cent of the crops’ total value to the state.

If fruit fly is detected by our export trading partners, Australian horticultural exports would likely be devastated at regional, state and national levels.

The Goulburn Murray Valley Fruit Fly Area Wide Management Program stakeholders include Greater Shepparton, Moira, Campaspe, Strathbogie and Berrigan shires, Agriculture Victoria, Fruit Growers Victoria, Cobram District Fruit Growers Association and Lions International.

The recent funding announcement continues the Victorian Government’s support to protect the Victorian economy from the scourge of fruit fly.

As part of the program’s Area Wide Management Strategy, this announcement provides funding to enable the monitoring of fruit fly populations, resourcing of volunteers and engaging the community, industry and government bodies to reduce fruit fly populations on the farm, in backyards, along roadsides and in gardens, parks and reserves.

Regional fruit fly co-ordinator Ross Abberfield says the Goulburn Murray Valley Fruit Fly Area Wide Management Program is based on creating awareness, education and engagement in the community, industry and government to reduce the economic impact of fruit fly.

He says its education and engagement programs are based on monitoring fruit fly populations data gathered from an extensive regional trapping grid.

“Since 2017, the program has reached out to more than 40 million viewers, listeners and readers across television, radio, print and electronic media,” Mr Abberfield says.

“More than 30,000 participants have been educated about the dangers of fruit fly through the primary school education program and at workshops and events,” he says.

“The program has generated great public interest and now has a community volunteer base of approximately 5000 people, who donate their time to help prevent and manage fruit fly.

“We have installed more than 500 awareness road signs throughout the region and 5000 reports identifying ‘hot spots’ have been targeted with offers of free removal of unmanaged and unwanted fruit trees – currently 108,000 and counting – representing a huge load of unmanaged fruit fly habitat.”

As a result, Mr Abberfield says between 2017 and 2019, a reduction of 60 per cent in Queensland Fruit Fly trapping numbers was measured across the Goulburn Murray Valley region.

He says in Cobram, where the Sterile Insect Technique release trial was being conducted, fruit fly trap numbers reduced a whopping 83 per cent.

“The program has been independently assessed by experts and is recognised as the most effective Fruit Fly Area Wide Management Program in Australia,” Mr Abberfield added.

“The program was invited to present at the 2022 International Symposium on Fruit Flies of Economic Importance and has won the 2022 Hort Connections National Award for Excellence, as well as the 2021 National Biosecurity Award, the 2019 Victorian Agriculture Innovation Award and the 2019 Victorian Achiever of the Year Award,” he says.

“I think those results speak for themselves.”

Categories Fruit Fly

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