Growers discuss pest worse than fruit fly

Tasmanian berry growers fear spotted wing drosophila is on its way

WORSE THAN FRUIT FLY: Simon Dornauf said fruit fly was a "dress rehearsal" compared to spotted wing drosophila. Picture: Phillip Biggs

WORSE THAN FRUIT FLY: Simon Dornauf said fruit fly was a "dress rehearsal" compared to spotted wing drosophila. Picture: Phillip Biggs


BerryQuest attendees discuss controls needed to keep spotted wing drosophila out of Australia.


As North-West produce growers within the Spreyton fruit fly zones batten down the hatches to protect their crops and livelihoods this week, berry growers at an international conference in Launceston have been discussing a far more dangerous threat: spotted wing drosophila.

The spotted wing drosophila has been highlighted as a serious threat to berry and cherry growers and it has been making its way around the world, but has not hit Australian shores – yet.

NSW Primary Industries department describes spotted wing drosophila as “a small fly similar in size to vinegar flies which sometimes gather around over-ripe fruit”.

“Most drosophila flies feed on damaged over-ripe fruit. Spotted wing drosophila is a serious pest because it attacks healthy ripening fruit as well as damaged or split fruit,” the department website states.

BerryQuest International 2018 was buzzing with talk about what could be done in Australia to ensure spotted wing drosophila does not get around biosecurity measures.

Hugh Lowe Farms managing director Marion Regan said the pest was already in Britain and growers had planned how to adapt as they saw it would come through Europe.

“We knew this was coming and have been waiting for it to arrive. We could see it coming up through Spain, Italy and Portugal,” Ms Regan said.

“We’re living with it and controls are working, but through scrupulous hygenic picking practices.”

British, European and US berry growers have lost produce through spotted wing drosophila.

“It is a disruptor and, like your fruit fly, it will lay its eggs in ripening fruit,” Ms Regan said.

“It’s arrival has really added to our costs and complexity of management, not just for picking but also for much more use of insect mesh and various other control methods because there is no one answer,” she said.

BerryQuest 2018 conference committee chairman Simon Dornauf spoke about Australia’s need to keep spotted wing drosophila out.

“In the last three weeks Tasmania has gone through a dress rehearsal of the lesser version of this with the incursion of Queensland fruit fly,” Mr Dornauf said.

“If Queensland fruit fly can get into Tasmania then this will as well. We need to do whatever we can to increase our border protection. This could devastate unprepared farmers,” he said.

Mr Dornauf said there was no point spending millions of dollars developing berry growing infrastructure if pests could still get through border controls.

The Advocate 


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