Fruit fly fi­asco be­comes blame game

The Orchardist - - Contents - By Inga Stünzner, in Aus­tralia

For the first time in two decades, South Aus­tralia's fruit fly-free sta­tus is now un­der threat with two out­breaks in its main fruit grow­ing area last month. The River­land dis­trict, which grows about half the state's grapes and 90% of its cit­rus and stone fruit, had strict quar­an­tine re­stric­tions in place, af­fect­ing about 30 grow­ers. The move came af­ter 11 Queens­land fruit fly males were found less than 50km from Biose­cu­rity South Aus­tralia's fruit-fly road block, about 120km west of Mil­dura. The out­breaks were most likely caused by in­fested fruit that came through there.

And the blame, ac­cord­ing to Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Gail Gago, can be laid at the NSW and Vic­to­rian gov­ern­ments' door.

In a strongly worded state­ment, Ms Gago said South Aus­tralia had been put at risk be­cause in­ter­state erad­i­ca­tion ef­forts had largely been aban­doned. “It is no sur­prise that some Queens­land fruit fly would find their way here.” Some crit­i­cism, how­ever, made its way back.

"I think it's very un­for­tu­nate that South Aus­tralia is point­ing the stick as they are, around an is­sue that they have to con­trol them­selves," said Vic­to­rian Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Peter Walsh.

NSW and Vic­to­ria gave up their fight against the fruit fly last year when they dereg­u­lated re­stric­tions on the move­ment of un­treated fruit across most of their states. From July last year, Queens­land fruit fly host pro­duce com­ing into th­ese two states no longer needed to be treated or cer­ti­fied - ex­cept for the Greater Sun­raysia Pest Free Area.

THE NEW CON­DI­TIONS?

That the fruit is free of Queens­land fruit fly. This Greater Sun­raysia Pest Free Area is a rel­a­tively new zone lo­cated within the ex­ist­ing Fruit Fly Ex­clu­sion Zone stretch­ing across NSW, Vic­to­ria and South Aus­tralia, where there is a high value of hor­ti­cul­tural crops in­clud­ing cit­rus, ta­ble grapes and stone fruit.

Since the changes in reg­u­la­tions, there have been con­tin­u­ous out­breaks of fruit fly. “In the Greater Sun­raysia area 22 out­breaks are be­ing man­aged and more than 600 de­tec­tions of Q-fly have been made so far this fi­nan­cial year,” Ms Gago said. In fact, NSW DPI web­site lists 17 fruit fly in­fes­ta­tions in the Greater Sun­raysia area this Jan­uary.

Each in­fes­ta­tion has re­sulted in a 15 kilo­me­tre re­stric­tion. The depart­ment has hit back at crit­i­cism, say­ing NSW has strict biose­cu­rity mea­sures in place to pro­tect its $12 bil­lion agri­cul­tural in­dus­try. “This in­cludes re­search and ad­vi­sory ser­vice on Queens­land fruit fly man­age­ment across NSW,” a spokesper­son said. “De­pend­ing on the sta­tus of the area, the DPI re­mains com­mit­ted to as­sist­ing in­dus­try in man­ag­ing fruit fly and will con­tinue to pro­vide on­go­ing sup­port to producers.”

This sup­port in­cludes trap­ping to pro­vide area free­dom from ex­otic fruit flies, in­clud­ing Mediter­ranean fruit fly, mar­ket ac­cess ne­go­ti­a­tions, cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, tech­ni­cal ad­vice and broader fruit fly man­age­ment co-funded re­search. For South Aus­tralia's fruit in­dus­try, this is not enough. “Queens­land fruit fly is en­demic in some parts of Vic­to­ria and New South Wales and re­ports con­tinue of fresh de­tec­tions and out­breaks,” Ms Gago said. A week af­ter the Queens­land fruit fly out­break, Mediter­ranean fruit fly lar­vae were de­tected in home-grown apri­cots in the small town of Sel­licks Beach, South Aus­tralia. A 1.5 kilo­me­tre quar­an­tine area and a 7.5 kilo­me­tre re­stric­tion zone were set up. Ms Gago told me­dia it was un­re­lated to the Queens­land fruit fly out­break and was un­likely to af­fect grape grow­ers in the nearby McLaren Vale. South Aus­tralia still main­tains its fruit fly-free sta­tus be­cause of its quar­an­tine mea­sures, which in­cludes a round-the-clock sta­tion at Yamba, near the Vic­to­rian bor­der.

Mean­while South Aus­tralian Lib­eral Se­na­tor Anne Rush­ton has joined a grow­ing num­ber of voices call­ing on the states to take a uni­fied ap­proach Un­like SA, the Vic­to­rian and NSW gov­ern­ments do not have road­blocks on the high­ways lead­ing to Sun­raysia from the Grif­fith area of NSW, or Vic­to­ria's Goul­burn Val­ley, where Queens­land fruit fly is en­demic.

Se­na­tor Rus­ton told me­dia: “The flies didn't get here by them­selves, and it's a sig­nif­i­cant con­cern that there have been out­breaks in other states.

“We have to make sure we can pro­tect our­selves. “What's most frus­trat­ing is that for the past six or seven years, the Na­tional Farm­ers Fed­er­a­tion's fruit-fly strat­egy, which pro­poses a whole set of ini­tia­tives for pre­vent­ing fruit­fly out­breaks, has been sit­ting on the shelf.” She said the states should join forces and es­tab­lish a na­tional fa­cil­ity to breed ster­ile male flies for fruit-fly con­trol. Cit­rus Aus­tralia chair Ta­nia Chap­man told ABC Ra­dio uni­fied ef­forts were needed to com­bat the scourge.

“Quite clearly what we do need to do is to get all of the par­ties at the same ta­ble and re­ally de­fine what are the tools we've got, what are the tools we need, and re­ally start to make a plan to go for­ward,” she said.

For Queens­land, the fo­cus is on keep­ing other species of fruit fly out of the coun­try. Only the na­tive Queens­land fruit fly and the in­tro­duced Mediter­ranean fruit fly are in Aus­tralia, yet many species that could po­ten­tially cause ma­jor dis­rup­tion to the hor­ti­cul­tural trade have not gained en­try. Many ex­ist within in neigh­bour­ing coun­tries.

The pa­paya fruit fly out­break in North Queens­land in 1995 was an ex­pen­sive les­son, cost­ing mil­lions of dol­lars to erad­i­cate and for grow­ers to meet quar­an­tine re­stric­tions for ex­port.

Queens­land's Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, Forestry and Fish­eries (DAFF) said con­tin­u­ing vig­i­lance is re­quired to re­duce the pos­si­bil­ity of a ma­jor fruit fly out­break oc­cur­ring again.

This is pro­vided by a net­work of fruit fly traps through­out high-risk ar­eas of Queens­land as part of a na­tional sur­veil­lance sys­tem.

This net­work also pro­vides ev­i­dence to trad­ing part­ners of Queens­land's and Aus­tralia's con­tin­u­ing free­dom from ex­otic fruit fly. Some ex­port des­ti­na­tions will not ac­cept pro­duce with­out this ev­i­dence.

Re­sults from each week's trap run are recorded in a com­puter data­base and re­ported to the Of­fice of the Chief Plant Pro­tec­tion Of­fi­cer in Can­berra.

“The de­tec­tion of an ex­otic fruit fly trig­gers the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a con­tin­gency plan to de­limit the in­cur­sion and pos­si­bly erad­i­cate the species should an out­break oc­cur,” ac­cord­ing to DAFF.

A Fruit Fly Ex­clu­sion Zone (green) ex­tends across New South Wales, Vic­to­ria and South Aus­tralia. The Greater Sun­raysia Pest Free Area (blue) is a new area within this zone and the only area within Vic­to­ria and NSW with strict fruit fly re­stric­tions in pla

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