Groundbreaking sterile fruit fly facility opens in South Australia

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Groundbreaking sterile fruit fly facility opens in South Australia

Australia's newest weapon against one of the world’s worst horticultural pests has been unveiled in the south of the country.

The world-class National Sterile Insect Technology (SIT) Center in South Australia will initially tackle the Queensland fruit fly, which costs the Australian horticulture industry more than AUD$300 million (US$220 million) a year. fruit-fly-photo-james-niland

The AUD$3.8 million (US$2.8 million) center will produce 50 million sterile male Queensland fruit flies each week, to be released to mate with females and hopefully help collapse wild populations of the pest, which affects horticulture growing regions. 

Fruit flies destroy fruit and vegetables in commercial crops, home gardens and impact trade access. The Queensland fruit fly, or Q-fly, is a major pest, which attacks fruit and vegetable crops in Australia.

South Australia is the only mainland State to be declared fruit fly-free.

South Australian Agriculture Minister Leon Bignell said the new center would transform the way Q-fly was managed around Australia and would help increase global confidence in South Australia’s biosecurity, product integrity and food safety standards.

“The facility will reinforce South Australia’s enviable status as the only mainland state in Australia which is fruit fly free,” he said.

“It will also help to reduce fruit fly populations in other major horticulture regions across Australia.

“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.”

The center is located at Port Augusta, about 300km (186mi) north of the South Australian capital Adelaide and is supported by SITplus, a national research and development effort led by Horticulture Innovation Australia.

Horticulture Innovation Australia Chairman Selwyn Snell said researchers travelled to Austria, Spain, Israel, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States to investigate similar, leading operations as part of the center’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.

Photo: James Niland

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