A STERILE fruit fly release pilot program could soon be implemented in the Perth Hills.
The pilot program would be based on a five year Hawaiian program, which achieved a 90 per cent success rate in reducing Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly) numbers.
Representatives from the Hills Orchard Improvement Group (HOIG) met with Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL), the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) and FruitWest recently to build momentum, gather support and plan for the program.
Roleystone Valley View Orchard grower Wilma Byl represented the HOIG at the meeting to discuss the program and said the day was a success.
“It’s only in its early stages,” Ms Byl said.
“The program will come as a good gauge, as growers reduce the use of chemical sprays.
“We are getting the program ready, developing it for the Hills, then will look at funding.
“It’s a huge task but we are serious and committed to this program and are hopeful of the success it will have.”
The process will involve baiting, monitoring and trapping fruit fly – prior to the release of the sterile male.
Based on the Hawaiian program results, the pilot program will not show immediate success, but will suppress numbers gradually.
The program would overflood the population of sterile males, to reduce the female population which causes the most damage to fruit.
DAFWA officers who took part in the meeting put forward some recommendations.
“An outcome from the meeting was to investigate whether a targeted area-wide management trial, which would include the application of sterile insect technique, is feasible,” a DAFWA spokesperson said.
“DAFWA recommended industry develops a whole-of-orchard and an area-wide control, and a co-ordination strategy for the management of Medfly using baiting, trapping, orchard hygiene and permitted sprays.”
Releasing sterile insects can only form part of an overall management package, thus orchard hygiene and other measures are important to decreasing numbers.
HAL general manager David Moore said the organisation was committed to the research.
“Depending on what the program looks like, we will seek appropriate co-investors to fund the pilot,” he said.
Mr Moore said the challenge was to get awareness and support of Hills growers.
“It will require a lot of effort from growers, as it is labour intensive, but if other experiences are anything to go by, it can be effective,” he said.
“We hope to get the pilot happening this year. We need to develop it, get the commitment from growers and find co-investors.”
HOIG spokesman Brett DelSimone said the Hills orchardists were in a transition period, where they were moving away from chemical use.
“We have high hopes for this program,” he said. “It was good to have a ‘meeting of
the minds’ to assist and plan the start of this pilot.
“Things are looking up, we are forward-planning, and we have the support of DAFWA and the Agriculture and Food Minister.”