Plant Health Australia (PHA) has received funds to establish an Advisory Committee to coordinate the implementation of the National Fruit Fly Strategy (NFFS), allowing a national approach to managing this troublesome group of insects to go ahead.
The Advisory Committee has been funded for 18 months to review and put into effect the NFFS Implementation Action Plan which was developed in 2010.
PHA’s General Manager for Risk Management, Rod Turner, was a co-author of the plan and is coordinating the establishment of the Advisory Committee. Mr Turner said that the plan would first be reviewed to take into account changes since it was developed.
“There have been a number of significant changes including legislation, chemical control options and the dissolution of the tri-state fruit fly free zone. The Advisory Committee will also assess where the plan has already been implemented, and what remains to be done,” Mr Turner said.
“Under the plan, new approaches to the prevention and control fruit fly during crop growth will be considered. One option is ‘area wide management’ which is used effectively overseas. This is basically integrated pest management strategies by individual producers coordinated across a region with benefits to the whole area,” said Mr Turner.
“Because of the need to manage fruit flies regionally, we’re considering having regional representation on the Advisory Committee. That will allow us to pick up all of the affected industries in a region, as well as local councils and community. This gives us the best chance of reaching everyone in communities where fruit fly control is important.”
The NFFS Implementation Action Plan includes fruit fly research and development priorities. This includes research on increasing the ability of sterile male flies to compete with non-sterile males for females.
According to Mr Turner there needs to be further research to improve the fly survival rate when treated and to make sure the behaviour of sterile males is the same as normal males when mating.
“Research has found that sterile male fruit flies aren’t as attractive to wild females, because they sing to potential mates differently. So there’s work to be done there.”
“There also needs to be some research on better ways to disperse the flies across wide areas, and improvements in the attraction of some species of flies to lures.”
An exciting initiative in this area that was not under consideration when the implementation plan was originally developed is the SITplus program. The program has a number of aims, but one is to produce a male only strain of Queensland fruit fly. This could prevent damage caused to fruit caused by females laying infertile eggs.
Also under the plan, guidelines for producers will be developed to manage fruit flies in specific production areas, allowing for the establishment of areas of low pest prevalence or pest free places or sites.
“This should improve operational management practices and reduce production loses for growers. It would also mean that some growers could gain better access to markets,” said Mr Turner.
A number of case studies have been completed to verify that the area wide methods used for the management of fruit flies will facilitate improved market access. For example, the method was shown to be viable for citrus growers from Central Burnett and tomato and capsicum growers from Bowen.
“There are already some examples of approved systems for fruit fly management for a crop, such as for blueberries from Tumbarumba and tomatoes from Guyra in glasshouse production facilities,” added Mr Turner.
Currently, different markets may require varying chemical or physical treatment regimens to attain certification, causing duplication of treatments and additional costs for producers. The plan includes a recommendation to harmonise interstate certification arrangements with those of export markets, to establish a single set of trading conditions across Australia for each economically significant species of fruit fly.
“This can now occur because all state and territory governments have agreed to use the same fumigation and cold treatment regimes that the Australian Government utilises for access to export markets. There have also been some changes to state and territory legislation to align with federal legislation,” Mr Turner advised.
“This should improve market access for growers and remove duplication in procedures that are used on farm and those required for trade purposes, saving growers money.”
The NFFS and the NFFS Implementation Action Plan are available from the PHA website.