The latest weapon in the fight against fruit fly, the National Sterile Insect Technology (SIT) Facility, is now open for business.
The world-leading $3.8 million facility provides a powerful new line of defence against fruit flies, one of the world’s most destructive horticultural pests, which destroy fruit and vegetables in commercial crops and home gardens, and affect trade access.
The Queensland fruit fly, or Q-fly, is predominantly found in the eastern states.
The centre will produce 50 million sterile male Q-flies each week. The flies will be released to mate with females, collapsing wild populations in fruit fly affected horticulture growing regions.
As part of the development of the National SIT Facility, researchers travelled to Austria, Spain, Israel, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States to investigate similar leading operations, ensuring that it is one of the most progressive and advanced in the world.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Leon Bignell described the new facility as a game changer in the management of Q-fly across Australia and New Zealand.
“In 2014–15 the estimated farm gate value of our fresh fruit and vegetables vulnerable to fruit fly infestation, including wine grapes and almonds, was $1.1 billion,” he said.
“The State Government uses every weapon possible to protect and defend our precious crops.
“This new facility will help increase global confidence in South Australia’s biosecurity, product integrity and food safety standards, and reinforce South Australia’s enviable status as the only mainland state in Australia that is fruit fly free.
“This facility further boosts our capacity to safeguard crops and the livelihoods of thousands of South Australians, and will also contribute to the local economy through the creation of 10 new fulltime jobs in Port Augusta.”
The State Government provided $3 million through PIRSA towards the construction of the facility with $800,000 provided by Horticulture Innovation Australia. The centre is supported by SITPlus, a national research and development effort, which now has a combined program budget of $45 million.
The SITPlus program is led by Horticulture Innovation Australia, in partnership with PIRSA, the Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, CSIRO, Plant and Food Research Australia, the NSW Department of Primary Industries and Macquarie University.