Australia

Tech centre will produce fruit fly drones to wipe out costly pest

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags: Australia, Insect

A new weapon against one of the world’s worst horticultural pests has been unveiled in Australia, in the form of a research centre that will produce 50m sterile male flies each week.

The National Sterile Insect Technology centre will initially tackle the Queensland fruit fly—or Q-fly—which costs the Australian horticulture industry more than A$300m (US$234m) a year. 

The A$3.8 million centre will release the flies to mate with females, collapsing wild populations in affected growing regions. 

Fruit flies destroy commercial fruit and vegetable crops and impact trade access. South Australia, where the centre will be located, is the only mainland state to be declared free of the Queensland fruit fly free. 

State agriculture minister Leon Bignell said the Horticulture Innovation Australia-led centre in Port Augusta would transform the way Q-flies were managed around Australia and would help increase global confidence in regional biosecurity, product integrity and food safety standards. 

The facility will… help to reduce fruit fly populations in other major horticulture regions across Australia​,” said Bignell. 

It is a critical breakthrough for our horticulture industries and has the potential to mitigate Q-fly as a major pest problem and increase returns to growers​.” 

HIA chairman Selwyn Snell said his researchers had travelled to Austria, Spain, Israel, Guatemala, Mexico and America to investigate similar leading operations as part of the centre’s development. 

Today is not only a win for the nation’s horticulture industry, it is also a win for consumers who stand to soon benefit from increased quality produce at markets and on shop shelves​,” he said. 

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