One of Australia’s major fruit-producing regions has been battling fruit fly maggot infestations in loquats and early season stonefruit crops such as apricots, peaches and nectarines.
In a release last month, the Greater Sunraysia Pest Free Area (GSPFA) said the wetter than usual conditions had been ideal for Queensland fruit fly numbers to “explode”, and action was being taken to get households more involved in pest mitigation efforts.
Local grower-member on the committee John Argiro said people were struggling to come to terms with the effort and cost of controlling fruit fly in their backyards.
“It’s a week-on-week commitment to do it properly and it costs time and money,” Argiro said.
“Control sprays need to start at least six to eight weeks before harvest and the tropical weather will make controlling fruit fly even more difficult, even when you’ve done everything right,” he said.
“The reality now is that growing fruit requires 100% commitment. Unmanaged fruit trees need to be removed straight away because they are too great a risk to our industry.”
Industry Development Committee (IDC) member Michael Tempini said fruit fly was seen as such an important issue that the table grape, stone fruit and citrus industries together with the Victorian Government were providing funding to help reduce the number of fruit trees.
“It’s encouraging that we’ve received fantastic support from people who want to protect the horticultural industry and who have decided to take part in the tree removal program,” Tempini said.
GSPFA coordinator Deidre Jaensch said nearly 800 trees had been removed so far under the program.
“This past month we have received a lot of enquiries from people wanting to take advantage of the funding especially when they have found fruit fly in their fruit,” Jaensch said.
“We expect a lot more requests as the season continues with the peak in fruit fly numbers observed to occur in January,” she said.
Commercial growers are particularly concerned about house blocks and ‘lifestyle’ properties scattered in the horticultural areas that usually have a fruit salad of trees providing a constant source of host plants all year round.
“We’re urging people to make the right decision to remove trees now as a matter of urgency,” Jaensch said.
Sunraysia is also a major growing area for table grapes, citrus and almonds.