Fruit fly fight bolstered by federal funding

FRUIT FLY: SITplus Facility Manager Terril Marais in the Nursery at the Port Augusta based facility.
FRUIT FLY: SITplus Facility Manager Terril Marais in the Nursery at the Port Augusta based facility.

The fight against fruit flies around the nation has been bolstered by a $500,000 upgrade at the Port Augusta sterile insect facility.

The federal fudning has improved the sterilisation rate of Queensland fruit flies through the installation of an additional X-ray irradiator at the site.

The Sterile Institute Technology (SIT) facility has been instrumental in containing outbreaks around the country, most recently at Loxton where 16 million sterile flies were released in the outbreak area.

"This sterilisation technology is not only embraced by South Australia but also by other states, with flies produced at Port Augusta also deployed in New South Wales and Victoria," Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said.

"This second irradiator gives us the opportunity to speed up the rate of flies irradiated at any one time, making more flies available to be used in our fight against the pest and ensures there is an active contingency plan in place in future should there ever be a fault with one of the irradiators.

"SIT flies produced at Port Augusta have been released at Loxton to assist in eradicating the Queensland fruit fly outbreak."

The egg preparation room where flies are bred and their eggs harvested.

The egg preparation room where flies are bred and their eggs harvested.

The Queensland fruit fly costs the Australian horticultural sector $300 million in lost markets and damaged produce every year.

The Port Augusta lab bred species are sterilised with X-rays and released into areas with wild populations to breed with females.

The sterile fruit fly is also given supplements to make them sing better, smell better and seem fitter to their female companions.

The wild female flies eventually become outnumbered and die out.

The National Port Augusta based SITplus Facility on Prosser Street

The National Port Augusta based SITplus Facility on Prosser Street

SIT Plus Facility Manager Terril Marais has welcomed the opportunity to increase productivity with a second irradiator.

"It's going to double the amount of fruit fly we can sterilise at any one time," Ms Marais said.

"We have a very short window from the time the pupa can be irradiated to when they can actually need to be dispatched to a rear-out centre. The quicker we can get them processed, the quicker we can get them to a rear-out centre.

"It shows how strongly the South Australian government is behind this whole project and the importance of us maintaining our fruit fly free area."

While eggs are constantly being produced in the facility, it would only take around 10 days for operations to fully ramp up in the event of an outbreak.

At full operation, 50 million sterile Queensland fruit flies can be produced each week.