South Australia's world-leading $3.8 million fruit fly facility will be officially opened today providing a powerful new line of defence against one of horticulture's most damaging pests.
Agriculture Minister Leon Bignell will open the National Sterile Insect Technology (SIT) Centre in Port Augusta this morning.
The Centre will produce 50 million sterile male Queensland fruit flies each week. The flies will be released to mate with females, collapsing wild populations in fruit fly affected horticulture growing regions.
Fruit flies are the world's worst horticultural pest, destroying fruit and vegetables in commercial crops, home gardens and impacting trade access. The Queensland fruit fly, or Q-fly, is a major pest which attacks fruit and vegetable crops in Australia.
South Australia is the only mainland State to be declared fruit fly free with the State Government committing around $5 million each year to fight the threat of fruit fly.
The SIT facility is supported by SITplus, a national research and development effort, which now has a combined program budget of $45 million. Research undertaken at the SIT facility is a game-changer for the future management of Queensland fruit fly.
The SITPlus program is led by Horticulture Innovation Australia Ltd, in partnership with Primary Industries and Regions SA, South Australian Research and Development Institute, Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, CSIRO, Plant and Food Research Australia, NSW Department of Primary Industries and Macquarie University - all with interconnected interests in the development and uptake of science solutions for the management of Q-fly.
Quotes attributable to Agriculture Minister Leon Bignell
This new facility is putting us on the world map in Sterile Insect Technology. It is transforming the way Q-fly is managed around Australia and will help increase global confidence in South Australia's biosecurity, product integrity and food safety standards.
South Australia's fresh fruit and vegetables - including wine grapes and almonds - have an estimated farm gate value of $1.1 billion and the State Government uses every weapon possible to protect and defend our precious crops.
The facility will reinforce South Australia's enviable status as the only mainland state in Australia which is fruit fly free. It will also help to reduce fruit fly populations in other major horticulture regions across Australia.
It is a critical breakthrough for our horticulture industries and has the potential to mitigate Q-fly as a major pest problem and increase returns to growers.
This facility further boosts our capacity to safeguard crops, and the livelihoods of thousands of South Australians. The SIT facility will also contribute to the local economy with 10 new fulltime jobs created.
Quotes attributable to Horticulture Innovation Australia Chairman Selwyn Snell
In the development of this vital centre, our researchers travelled to Austria, Spain, Israel, Guatemala, Mexico and the USA to investigate similar, leading operations. This facility combines all the best aspects of that research, making it one of the most progressive and advanced in the world.
The $45 million SITplus initiative complements this state-of-the-art facility with leading-edge fly production and release technology development.
Queensland fruit fly is one of the leading pests which plagues the Australian horticulture industry. Each year, the pest is estimated to cost the industry more than $300 million in lost markets and through damaged produce both pre-and post-harvest.
Today is not only a win for the nation's horticulture industry, it is also a win for consumers who stand to soon benefit from increased quality produce at markets and on shop shelves.