Port Augusta leads the way with sterile insect technology

$10 million for Port Augusta's sterile insect fruit fly technology

South Australia's role in the fight against the Queensland fruit fly has been bolstered through a new $10 million funding agreement.

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

Significant cash contributions by Western Sydney University (WSU) and the Government of South Australia will see staffing and operating costs at the facility covered until March 2022.

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

The $10 million three-year collaborative project managed by Hort Innovation will support ongoing research to permanently eradicate the pest.

"This new funding will not only support ongoing production but also refinement of our techniques in anticipation of the introduction of a full male-only strain of flies to the facility," Hort Innovation SITplus Coordinator Dan Ryan said.

"Our SITplus program, which is worth more than $50 million, is based on similarly successful international programs.

"SIT involves the strategic release of millions of sterile flies to greatly outnumber the wild population, with the intention to limit the opportunity for wild flies to mate and ultimately leading to a collapse in subsequent generations of wild flies."

Sterile flies can also be used to create buffer zones around pest free areas, and to suppress populations in other states where fruit fly is established.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said the arrangement ensured the continuing development of sterile Queensland fruit fly production at the facility.

The state government have contributed close $600,000 in funding for the project.

"South Australia has been leading the way on the use of SIT in eradicating Queensland fruit fly and the facility plays a critical role in the fight against this destructive pest," said Minister Whetstone.

"The final release of sterile flies until next spring is occurring this week, as part of the eradication operation at Lindsay Point in Victoria."

"The Marshall Liberal Government will use every tool at our disposal to protect our vital $1.2 billion horticulture industry, however the National SIT Facility is also a game changer for Australian horticulture as a whole."

The SIT facility at Port Augusta can produce 50 million sterile Queensland fruit flies each week at full operation.