At a meeting in Waikerie recently, speakers from Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales came together with local fruit growers to discuss the possibility of developing a national approach to the control of fruit fly.
Speakers presented a number of case studies and images of fruit fly damage to a range of fruit crops but also almonds. These messages were utterly compelling. The situation is very serious. As with Phylloxera in winegrapes it is not a matter of “if” the pest will penetrate the defences of our fruit fly free zone and cause massive upheaval to grower businesses, the regional economy and our export advantage but “when”. The concerns of Western Australian growers have been heightened with the APVMA’s withdrawal from the market of traditional pesticides, Dimenthoate and Fenthion. Growers have relied heavily on these chemicals to keep the pests at bay and their withdrawal from the market has focussed growers on the need to develop alternative control methods.
The local fruit fly committee is proposing an integrated national program to fix the problem once and for all. The committee is of the view that the answer lies in further development of Sterile Insect Technology (SIT) to eradicate the pests over time rather than continue to spend more and more on chemical controls. It was reported the Australian fruit industry spends as much as $300M on chemical controls per annum. Other countries have been investing in SIT over a number of years and the results are beginning to pay dividends. It was estimated that the Australian industry could make a good start on SIT controls with $20M per annum until the programme is well established.
The Riverland Committee is to be commended for this initiative. Riverland Wine will continue to support and report as appropriate.