Port Augusta's sterile insects help contain Loxton outbreak

FLY FIGHT: The use of Port Augusta's Sterile Insect Technology (SIT) played a key role in eliminating wild flies from the Loxton outbreak area.
FLY FIGHT: The use of Port Augusta's Sterile Insect Technology (SIT) played a key role in eliminating wild flies from the Loxton outbreak area.

Queensland fruit flies have been eradicated from the Riverland two months after millions of sterile fruit flies from the Port Augusta based National Sterile Insect Technology were released into the region.

The Loxton outbreak could have been potentially devastating, with the Queensland fruit fly costing the Australian horticultural sector $300 million in lost markets and damaged produce every year.

"The Riverland produces some of the best fresh produce in the world and maintaining South Australia's fruit fly free status is critical to providing our growers with market advantage," Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said.

"With the lifting of quarantine restrictions for Loxton, access to domestic markets will resume from the area without requiring expensive additional treatment.

"The international market access process takes longer, and we are working with the Commonwealth Government to have export arrangements back in place as soon as possible."

Mr Whetstone said the use of Sterile Insect Technology (SIT) and zero tolerance at roadside inspections played a key role in eliminating wild flies from the Loxton outbreak area.

The eradication response involving SIT, hygiene and baiting operations is regarded as the best method for effective fruit fly eradication.

The Queensland fruit flies are bred in labs, sterilised with X-rays and then released into areas with wild populations to breed with females.

The wild female flies eventually become outnumbered and die out.

"South Australia is leading the way in SIT and this has proven to be a valuable tool when fighting fruit flies, with 16 million sterile flies produced at the Port Augusta based facility released at the Loxton outbreak area," Mr Whetstone.

The state government has also implemented a zero-tolerance approach at the Yamba Quarantine Station to coincide with random roadblocks.

"Almost five months into zero tolerance at Yamba, we are seeing a shift in attitude with visitors bringing less fruit fly host material into the Riverland," Mr Whetstone said.

"It is important to continually remind travellers that when coming into South Australia, leave fruit and vegetables behind and support the state's growers by buying local and not putting our fruit fly free status at risk."