Fruit fly appeal to help cut losses

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

The WA stone fruit industry is appealing to people with fruit trees to spring into action to help it fight a pest which last year destroyed half its crop.

Orchardists and backyard growers had controlled Mediterranean fruit fly with the insecticide fenthion until last year when it was banned by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority. The APVMA rated fenthion use an unacceptable health risk to children who consumed big amounts of fruit.

Commercial growers won a 12-month reprieve which allows restricted use of fenthion up until the end of next month. The Hills Orchard Improvement Group is continuing its campaign to have the ban overturned.

Group spokesman Brett Delsimone said there was a danger fruit fly numbers could explode in spring unless all fruit growers - commercial and residential - were vigilant.

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"There was wholesale devastation of residential crops last season which then in turn led to medfly finding their way on to commercial orchards and devastating our crops as well," Mr Delsimone said.

"There were record levels of crop loss on commercial orchards and the residential population was at a loss at how to deal with it."

Mr Delsimone said before the ban on fenthion, the Department of Agriculture and Food WA estimated fruit fly cost the local horticulture industry more than $20 million a year in lost production, market access and control costs.

"This appeal is to anyone who has backyard food production," he said. "Mediterranean fruit fly will attack around 260 crops including fruit, vegetables, nuts and even flowers.

"It is safest to assume that if it is an edible crop it could come under attack. Even things we would consider unlikely such as lemons are a prime target and for the first time ever we saw fruit fly strikes on almonds."

Commercial growers are asking people to:

·Hang fruit fly traps and monitor them regularly.

·Bait once or twice a week.

·Pick up fallen produce and boil, freeze or solarise it (never just throw it untreated into the bin).

·Put physical barriers such as nets over trees.

·Report abandoned trees to DAFWA or FruitWest.

Mr Delsimone said it was in everyone's interests to fight the pest and to limit the use of pesticides.

"We are relying on backyard growers to help keep the problem in check, we are asking for help," he said.

"One of the main benefits is that if residents can maintain control of their fruit fly, it very much helps to lessen our chemical usage as we don't have to fight that external population coming into our properties."

Testing commissioned by HOIG indicates the use of fenthion by commercial growers is below maximum residue levels allowed by the APVMA.

We are relying on backyard growers to help keep the problem in check. " *Brett Delsimone, Hills Orchard Improvement Group *

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