100,000+ sterile Qflies dropped on Adelaide in biotech attack

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The fast-breeding Queensland fruit fly, or Bactrocera tryoni, is an endemic fruit-crop pest that has now spread across much of Australia.
The fast-breeding Queensland fruit fly, or Bactrocera tryoni, is an endemic fruit-crop pest that has now spread across much of Australia.
James Niland, Flickr CC
Hundreds of thousands of sterile fruit flies were dropped from the air over the Adelaide region on 2 March 2018, signalling the launch of an ambitious strategy aimed at crippling the reproductive cycle of this costly, endemic fruit-crop pest.

Announcing the start of the nationwide war on the Queensland fruit fly, or ‘Qfly’, Australia’s federal government Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud said the introduction of the sterile flies would reduce Qfly numbers quickly, because flies with which the sterile insects mate will not reproduce as a result.

“The new sterile insect technology (SIT) could be a game-changer for Australian horticulture,” Minister Littleproud declared.

“Less fruit flies equals more fruit with less pesticide, great crops and profits for farmers. More profit for farmers means they spend more money in town which creates more regional jobs.

“While SIT [sterile insect technology] has been effective in California and Guatemala, this project is breaking new ground, with some of Australia’s leading fruit fly experts on board,” he said.

Q-fly: researchers from the Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) have developed a new low-dose treatment for Qfly infestation.
Ramping up the war on Qfly: the release of hundreds of thousands of sterile Qflies across affected areas of Australia follows CSIRO research into effective fly-release methods.
CSIRO
And the 2 March Qfly drop over South Australia’s capital and surrounds is just the beginning, Minister Littleproud said.

The dramatic launch of the national sterile-Qfly strategy comes on the back of a CSIRO-led project focused on creating optimal conditions for SIT fly releases.

“This trial is the first step in the process, trialling the equipment used to deploy the flies from a plane, following ... extensive baiting and trapping to ensure its effectiveness,” Minister Littleproud noted. “A release of two million male sterile fruit flies is planned for April to combat recent incursions in South Australia.

“Sustainable management of Qfly is vital to Australia’s $10.3 billion horticultural sector—this pest costs the horticultural sector $300 million each year in lost markets,” he added.

The insect air-bombing of the Adelaide region was part of SITPlus, a $45 million R&D partnership that aims to revolutionise Qfly management in affected areas across Australia.

It is hoped that Australia’s leading horticulture industry body, Hort Innovation, can commercialise production and delivery of sterile male Qflies in the near future.

Who’s backing the SIT strategy?

Funding partners in the SIT plan include Hort Innovation, through its member levies (with matching Australian Government funding); Macquarie University in Sydney’s north-west, the New South Wales and South Australian governments, CSIRO, the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research, the Australian Government’s Rural R&D for Profit program and an array of fruit-fly-affected levy-paying industries.

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