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Adelaide hosts world thinkers on sterile insect technology

Monday 2 December 2019

Specialists from around the world have descended on Adelaide to discuss ways to improve how the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) assists with the development of sterile insect technologies (SIT) for biosecurity, including fruit flies.


The South Australian Research and Development Institute is hosting the final meeting of an IAEA research program on the most effective types of SIT for producing sterile male strains of insects.

The IAEA is the world's centre for co-operation in the nuclear field and seeks to promote the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies.

The workshop participants are at the forefront of international research and development in biology and agriculture, and have travelled to Adelaide from Vienna, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China,Germany, Greece, Guatemala, India, Mexico, Panama, Singapore, Thailand and USA.

Opening the workshop today, Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said that advances in pest management were particularly important to South Australia.

"Keeping South Australia free of fruit fly is vitally important and we have implemented a number of strategies to keep it that way, including zero tolerance at the Yamba Quarantine Station and random roadblocks to change the culture of motorists," said Minister Whetstone.

"SIT provides us with an effective and environmentally friendly weapon against this destructive pest, which could put our $1.2 billion horticultural industry at risk of economic devastation.

"This technology has been a key part of our eradication responses to fruit fly outbreaks. It also creates opportunity for our farmers to reduce pesticide use and expand their production of high-quality eco-friendly produce.

"Being part of this research program with the IAEA reinforces the profile of SARDI as a world-class research institute that contributes to global knowledge while supporting South Australia's agricultural industries."

SIT involves the release of millions of sterile flies to outnumber the wild population.

When male sterile flies mate with wild female flies no offspring are produced, which leads to a collapse in the population of wild flies.

The workshop group will travel to Port Augusta to visit the $3.8 million PIRSA Sterile Insect production facility, which can produce 50 million sterile Queensland fruit flies each week at full operation.

The facility is supported by SITPlus, a national $45 million research and development partnership.

To find out more about protecting South Australia from fruit fly, visit the PIRSA website.

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