Israel Medfly hope

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

With a ban on chemicals dimethoate and fenthion imminent, the Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly) is poised to take centre stage in fruit bowls across the State.

WA fruit grower Garrie Vincenti was so worried about the ban he travelled to Israel in search of a holy grail to secure the future of his orchard.

What the third generation grower found was a holistic and sustainable approach to Medfly management that worked and he now plans to bring it to WA.

“We now have four generations of growers here and I want my son to be able to carry it on without the threat of Medfly, ” Mr Vincenti said.

Nimrod Israely, chief executive of Israel’s Medfly control company, Biofeed, has a vision of agriculture with no chemical spraying.

In WA at Mr Vincenti’s invitation, Mr Israely said that more than 70 per cent of spraying in WA was to control Medfly.

“But when you take insecticides out of the equation, many times we have found that the pest’s natural enemies come back.”

For the past 18 years, Biofeed has been analysing this hypothesis and in the past 10 years has been developing a unique bait system.

“The vision is not just developing the bait product, it’s giving the support to carry out what is necessary to get rid of the pests, ” Mr Israely said.

“We have found that infestation has been far lower when using the alternative.”

Mr Vincenti said the bait was something growers had been trying to find for a long time.

“The traps that are available up to now are the same as my father had 50 years ago, ” he said.

“After I went to Israel and saw what they had, I realised what we had wasn’t working.

“What I like about it is it doesn’t touch the plant or the workers. My family works in the orchard and they won’t be touching chemicals any more.”

Market agent John Mercer, of Mercer Mooney, said the product could finally help growers cut their dependence on chemicals.

“We believe this system is safe, sustainable and it works, ” he said.

Mercer Mooney fresh packaging manager Jenny Mercer said by not using dimethoate and fenthion, it would not only reduce chemicals for consumers, but also for growers.

She said the next step was to get the bait through import approvals, but it was possible they would not have it for this season which starts in September.

The bait device is a square mesh panel that holds a bottle containing the bait which drips for about six months.

“The spinosad (insecticide) inside the bait is harmless to people, but very poisonous for the fruit fly, ” Mr Israely said.

“The fly comes to eat the food and flies away and dies.

“Beneficial bugs are not attracted to the food; in fact, bees are repelled by it. The target is zero spraying and we have achieved that in Israel with this bait.”

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