Australian Govt pledges US$12M for fruit fly control

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Australian Govt pledges US$12M for fruit fly control

Just over a month after announcing funding to trial RapidAIM technology to fight fruit flies, the Australian Federal Government has put together a AUD$16.9 million (US$12.3 million) package to keep the pest at bay.

In an announcement today, Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said the deal would assure Australia's trading partners when produce comes from a fruit fly-free area.

The country's horticultural exports are worth around AUD$2.23 billion (US$1.63 billion) annually.

"Fruit fly outbreaks cost the horticultural industry millions every year," Minister Littleproud said. "If we take control of fruit fly we'll get access to more premium markets and boost farm gate prices.

"We've started a trial of smart-traps that'll send farmers instant alerts if fruit fly is detected."

The minister added the government was also investing in a national mapping program to track the movements of Queensland fruit fly, known as Qfly, in the summer.

"The flies make their way south as it warms up and this will let growers know where they are and help us target where to release our sterile fruit flies," he said.

"We're putting extension officers on the ground to help growers use the latest science. They'll help farmers work through the latest R&D and put it to work in their orchards.

"This package will help protect our [AUD]$12 billion (US$8.77 billion) horticultural industry and reassure our trading partners of the systems we have in place."

The program will address Qfly in the country's eastern states and Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly) in Western Australia.

The announcement also follows a recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Australia and New Zealand to fight biosecurity threats, with groups like Hort Innovation seeking to "drive a new era in Australian biosecurity research".

The initiative is led by Australia’s Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative (PBRI) and New Zealand’s Better Border Biosecurity (B3NZ), focusing on biosecurity Research as well as development and extension efforts at pre-border, border and post-border stages.

The initiative also aims to build capacity to support the future of plant biosecurity through education and training, and will establish professional development opportunities for postgraduate and post-doctoral students across the two countries.

Hort Innovation CEO Matt Brand said Australia and New Zealand both prided themselves on their unique natural environments, high-quality produce and trusted international reputations.

"And both Australia and New Zealand share a common goal of wanting to maintain this reputation and impede the destructive impact that the threat of pest and disease can have on our horticultural industries," Brand said.

"Our role as a Research and Development Corporation is to invest in, manage and evaluate research and other activities that deliver impact for our producers and the broader community.

"This project is of national and international importance because not only are we at the forefront – working together across plant production systems to stamp out threats before they can establish and take root, we are also working with New Zealand industries and government to protect our growers from biosecurity threats to promote greater efficiencies across our R&D investments."

PBRI program director Dr. Jo Luck said the research and development partnership was helping to foster collaboration at an international level, sharing knowledge to avoid duplication of efforts for the benefits of Australia’s plant biosecurity.

"This collaboration will be implemented via joint R&D projects and workshops supported by PBRI and B3 investors, and delivered by Australian and New Zealand researchers," she said.

"One of the key components of our success will be building biosecurity awareness and attitudes through stronger partnerships with industry and all levels of government."

Photo: PIRSA

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