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New national fruit fly research project to provide insights for horticulture

Biosecurity

Fruit fly infestation in research trial

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) Queensland is leading a $8.4million dollar fruit fly project, funded through the Australian Government Smart Fruit Fly Management Measure, with contributions from State and Territory governments under an intergovernmental agreement. 

The Phenology, demography and distribution of Australia’s fruit flies project brings together fruit fly researchers and knowledge to provide current and comprehensive scientific and technical information that will support in-field management and underpin regulatory aspects of fruit fly management in Australia. 

The project is focussed on three core elements of fruit fly research:   

  1. The seasonal cycles affecting fly activity (phenology)  
  2. Fly reproductive patterns and population changes (demography), and   
  3. Where the flies actually are (distribution).   

Dr Penny Measham, Market Access Team, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Dr Penny Measham, Market Access Team, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, said this project will bring together a large amount of historic data and new research to fill key knowledge gaps. 

“This Australia-wide collaborative approach is a real win for fruit fly research,” Dr Measham said. “We will provide updates throughout the project, and we expect to be able to offer growers region-specific guidance around fly emergence, their population peaks, and the distribution of different flies at the conclusion of the project in 2022.”  

The flies studied in this project include:  

  • Bactrocera tryoni (Queensland fruit fly),   
  • Bactrocera neohumeralis (Lesser Queensland fruit fly),   
  • Bactrocera aquilonis (Northern Territory fruit fly),   
  • Bactrocera jarvisi (Jarvis’ fruit fly),   
  • Zeugodacus cucumis (Cucumber fruit fly) and   
  • Dirioxa pornia (Island fly).  

Why is this important?  

According to Dr Measham, there are significant benefits to a coordinated national approach.  

“Bringing Australia’s foremost researchers together, including project leads Peter Leach (DAF) and Professor Tony Clarke (QUT), not only strengthens the research capacity, but allows work to occur concurrently and consistently, for the first time, on different Australian flies,” Dr Measham said.  

While different regions have different populations of fruit fly and different management programs, Dr Measham said there is a fairly neat emergence time in spring for fruit fly across large areas of Australia.   

“There are a lot of current models for emergence based on temperature, which assists growers and fruit fly programs to target their management,” Dr Measham said. “But if you go back a step, there’s quite a gap in knowledge around what fruit flies are doing over winter, their life cycle, and whether they’re actually responding to temperature, so we’re doing a lot of exploration into the physiology and the genetics of the fly. Improving fruit fly diagnostic capabilities has a broad benefit for surveillance and response activities.”  

For more information on the project, contact Dr Penny Measham. 

Collaborating national, state and research bodies

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