Horticulture

$10m to help combat pest

By Country News

A further $10million has been invested into sterile fruit fly research as part of a three-year Hort Innovation-managed project.

The contributions from Western Sydney University and the South Australian Government will continue the National Sterile Insect Technology (SIT) Facility at Port Augusta in South Australia, which opened in 2016.

Hort Innovation Sterile Insect Technique Plus (SITplus) co-ordinator Dan Ryan said the investment would lead to considerable development of the use of sterile insect technology.

‘‘This new funding will not only support ongoing production, but also refinement of our techniques in anticipation of the introduction of a full male-only strain of flies to the facility, which is being developed through a separate Hort Innovation funded project,’’ Mr Ryan said.

SIT involves the strategic release of millions of sterile flies to outnumber the wild population, with the intention to limit the opportunity for wild flies to mate and ultimately leading to a collapse in subsequent generations of wild flies.

‘‘SIT enables farmers to reduce their pesticide use and expand their production of high-quality Q-fly-free produce, enabling better trading opportunities,’’ Mr Ryan said.

‘‘Sterile flies can also be used to create buffer zones around pest free areas, and to suppress populations in areas where fruit fly is established.’’

Western Sydney University Director of the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Professor Ian Anderson, said the next phase of the research would look to further optimise SIT Q-fly production to support national operations.

‘‘This research aims to fill in the identified knowledge gaps in producing high-performing and healthy SIT Q-fly, which have emerged through the work already undertaken as part of the SITplus program,’’ he said.