The 2021 National Fruit Fly Symposium was hosted online by the National Fruit Fly Council in early May. Vinehealth Australia Technical Manger Suzanne McLoughlin attended the symposium and said it was clear that national fruit fly challenges are significant.

“The key message for me was the need for a unified objective on the desired outcome of fruit fly management in Australia across federal and state governments, industry and communities,” Suzanne said.

“And there needs to be national investment into the system from all partners.”

National Fruit Fly Council manager Christina Cook also said the council was committed to understanding and supporting the relationship between fruit fly and trade.

“Each commodity has different needs and each region has unique circumstances, but there are important commonalities – trade is the reason we’re here, and is the central driving force to managing fruit fly,” she said.

“We need workable protocols and treatments to access markets, we need modern and effective on-farm management tools, and while growers are usually pretty good at managing fruit-fly on farm, they need support to manage off-farm risks and things outside their control.”

Some of the key priorities discussed in the symposium were:

  • The development of more effective treatments (control options) including biocontrol options;
  • The use of entomopathogenic pathogens (naturally occurring bacteria, fungi, nematodes, viruses) that are pathogenic to the fruit flies and are mass produced and sold commercially, e.g. Spinosad;
  • More efficient and effective monitoring – including the use of smart traps either in a national grid or at local production area level with clear guidance on who is going to manage the traps, who is going to use the results and for what purpose; 
  • Smart nose technology on production lines to sniff out fruit fly-affected fruit;
  • A long term strategy for investment in research where funds are allocated into strategic areas with clear goals and outcomes;
  • Promoting fruit fly management to be embedded into business plans as it is for food safety;
  • To better understand and manage fruit fly in a changing climate;
  • To better engage international and domestic trade partners on new technology being proposed for management to gain their buy-in and feedback;
  • Constant innovation, continuous improvement and new research and adoption to ensure we keep up with competing countries who are investing in their management systems;
  • In principle agreement to continue to actively manage and limit the spread of Medfly and Qfly across Australia as very few international markets accept treatments for both Medfly and Qfly in the same markets; and
  • Diversification in export markets where possible.

Challenges include:

  • Resourcing, including an ongoing funding base and limited coordination of existing resources;
  • Loss of highly effective chemistry (dimethoate, fenthion for cover sprays) and issues with neonicotinoid use in the EU;
  • Limited range of treatments and associated accessibility issues across Australia;
  • Lack of research into effective on-farm fruit fly control which is currently expensive and largely funded by industry;
  • Complacency in fruit fly management in ‘off-seasons’;
  • Responses to fruit fly outbreaks from fruit fly sensitive foreign markets; and
  • Shortage of scientists working in the field of fruit fly research.

To access presentations from the symposium and keep up to date with outcomes and updates, sign up to the National Fruit Fly Council’s e-newsletter