The Strengthening Australia’s Fruit Fly System Research Program (the Research Program) is an initiative under the Intergovernmental Agreement on Strengthening Australia’s Fruit Fly Management System. The program funds research and development projects to support the delivery of an enhanced and national approach to managing fruit fly.
These projects complement previous and current research and provide national benefits for the Australian fruit fly management system. This work ensures there is a collaborative approach to address current and prioritised fruit fly research gaps and contributes to Australia’s biosecurity and international trade objectives.
We are working collaboratively with all major fruit fly management stakeholders.
The following bodies are the mechanisms for shaping the strategic direction, policy settings and technical basis for how fruit fly is managed in Australia:
- National Biosecurity Committee (which has oversight of the Research Program)
- Plant Health Committee
- National Fruit Fly Council
The total funding for the Research Program is $13 million, comprising $6.5 million from the Australian Government and $6.5 million co-contributed by state and territory governments.
Six projects have been commissioned for the research program.
Successful pest management relies on three core pieces of information:
- where the pests are (distribution)
- seasonal cycles affecting pest activity (phenology)
- reproductive patterns and population changes (demography).
Improving knowledge of Australia’s fruit fly species may lead to improvements in reducing pest management costs, improving crop yield and quality, and improving regional economies and food security.
This project is carrying out new research, and mines existing data relevant to the phenology, demography and distribution for six of Australia’s fruit fly species (Tephritidae):
- 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)
- Dirioxa pornia (Island fly).
- collects and analyses demographic data for target species (reproductive capacity) on standard diets and a number of known hosts
- collects accurate data and updates host lists for all target species
- collects constant-temperature development-rate data sets
- carries out physiological research on Bactrocera tryoni to better understand non-temperature related patterns in its seasonal phenology
- develops molecular diagnostic tools which can automate the identification of large, multi-species trap catches.
We are working collaboratively with state and territory governments and the Queensland University of Technology to implement this research project.
- All target species have been cultured.
- Planning and preparation to undertake day-degree model work is complete.
- Trapping, host capacity, female fly dissections, and fly longevity trials are underway.
- Existing field seasonal detection data for each species have been collated and preliminary analysis performed.
- Fruit volatile collection has commenced.
- Laboratory protocols for DNA extraction of bulk fruit flies have been refined.
- Two new fruit fly LAMP assays, for B. jarvisi and D. pornia, have been designed.
- Work to summarise and systematise data has also progressed. This work will depend on productive engagement with states and territories.
While current management practices for Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly) predominantly target the adult stage of the insect, biological control offers a viable tool for the suppression and management of all fruit fly life stages. Biological control includes the use of any organism that will act to kill or control the pest.
The research project is undertaking proof-of-concept research against Medfly using commercially available entomopathogenic microorganisms (fungi) to attack fruit fly eggs and larvae.
This project is:
- evaluating entomopathogenic fungi (EPF) with the potential to target juvenile life stages of Medfly
- increasing the number of tools available to the public, growers, grower groups and governments
- improving our understanding of the commercial viability of entomopathogenic fungi to form part of an integrated fruit fly management approach
- benefitting jurisdictions in which Medfly has the potential to establish and cause crop devastation.
We are working collaboratively with the Western Australian government through the Department of
Primary Industries and Regional Development to implement this research project.
- Literature continues to be collated regarding research as project continues.
- Ongoing testing of susceptibility of Medfly to entomopathogenic fungi (EPF) in all stages of life cycle continues through oral and contact bioassays.
- Assessment of EPF soil application effects on pupation and subsequent hatch is progressing well.
Methyl bromide fumigation is a commonly used post-harvest treatment of fruit and vegetables prior to domestic and international movement of horticultural commodities.
Optimised fumigation schedules will provide confidence that treatments are effective against fruit fly while minimising impacts on fruit quality.
This research project will look to optimise and rationalise methyl bromide disinfestation treatments against Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni) (Qfly), in a range of horticultural commodities with recommendations put forward that strengthen interstate certification assurance procedures.
This project is generating efficacy data on selected key commodities, allowing for the development of an appropriate methyl bromide dose for each group.
We are working collaboratively with the Queensland Government through the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to implement this research project.
- Ongoing delays in sourcing pure methyl bromide solution currently hinder testing abilities.
- Specialised equipment sourced for testing has been delivered, however have been found to be leaking. Repair parts are being sent from the US. Once repaired, researchers will commence testing of fruits in season – likely pears, apples, plums and mangoes.
- Efficacy data on each life stage of Qfly continues to be produced.
A sterile insect production facility has been operated by the Western Australian (WA) government since 1989, and currently provides sterile male Mediterranean fruit flies (Medfly) for outbreak control to other states. The WA Government recently determined that the longstanding funding arrangements for the facility were no longer sustainable or cost beneficial for their jurisdiction.
A cost-benefit analysis is being undertaken to help inform further decisions on the future of the facility.
In the interim, the Australian Government and all states (except for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory) agreed to temporarily share the costs of maintaining the operation of the facility to ensure Australia retained its ability to produce sterile male Medflies to retain our pest freedom profiles and respond to outbreaks.
This project will analyse and report on the costs and benefits of maintaining the facility. The analysis will identify the current stakeholder beneficiaries of the facility and provide an estimate of the economic benefit to each beneficiary.
Assessment of economic benefits will include the benefits from sterile insect technique (SIT) when used as a control method for localised suppression in endemic areas and for potential eradication of Medfly. This will then be compared with estimated costs of no control.
Costs will include maintaining and operating the facility. The future viability of the facility and likelihood of needing further funding for the facility will also be considered.
We have engaged AgEconPlus Pty Ltd to undertake this analysis and provide an assessment.
- This project was completed in August 2021 and a report provided to the National Biosecurity Committee.
- The analysis found that continuing to operate a Medfly facility was cost beneficial, and the analysis provided a breakdown of the benefits across states and territories.
- Because of the value of horticultural exports, Victoria was the greatest beneficiary, followed by South Australia and New South Wales.
Methyl bromide fumigation is a commonly used post-harvest treatment of horticultural commodities prior to their domestic and international movement of horticultural commodities.
It is important that operators understand the effects different types of packaging have on the results of fumigation.
This research project will review packaging used in Australian domestic horticulture industries.
The project is:
- examining improving air and methyl bromide movement through a fumigation chamber (pallets, liners and boxes)
- investigating the permeability of methyl bromide through liners and sorption rates of boxes in use in Australia
- providing results which can be used to improve guidelines on packaging protocols that result in better fumigation practices and are tailored to different packaging, allowing more flexibility while maintaining biosecurity.
We are working collaboratively with the Victorian government through the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (Agriculture Victoria) to implement this research project.
- Review of packaging materials indicates that current packaging is largely determined by market and retail customer requirements, to maximise cooling after harvest, and ease of handling. This is being compared with current international scientific and technical literature on permeability.
- Air movement trials are being assessed across three experimental designs of fumigation movement.
- Experimental chambers have been sourced to assess packaging permeability.
While current fruit fly management practices for Queensland fruit fly (Qfly) predominantly target the adult stage of the insect, biological control offers a viable tool for the suppression and management of all fruit fly life stages. Biological control includes the use of any organism that will act to kill or control the pest.
The research project is undertaking proof-of-concept research for biocontrols against Qfly.
This project will:
- rear and mass-release parasitic wasps which are already present in Australia and are known to target Qfly
- isolate and screen existing candidate entomopathogenic fungi and entomopathogenic nematode strains for effectiveness against adult, larval and pupal Qfly in laboratory bioassays
- evaluate how effective entomopathogenic fungi and entomopathogenic nematodes in soil are at killing pupae (also in the soil)
- apply entomopathogenic fungi and entomopathogenic nematodes as an integrated pest management tool (IPM) by exploring areas such as the formulation of a biopesticide, the ecology of the insect and its local environment, and interactions with other IPM tools.
This research project is a component of collaborative research complementing work funded
by Hort Innovation which includes parasitoid wasp release trials - Parasitoids for the management of fruit flies in Australia (MT19003).
Through Agriculture Victoria, we are working collaboratively with state and territory governments, universities and horticultural industries (apple and pear, citrus, raspberry and blackberry, strawberry, summerfruit, table grape and vegetable).
- First year wasp release and field data collection was successful.
- Field data analysis of evidence for parasitism at release sites continues.
- Screening trials have been completed for entomopathogenic nematode (EPN) strains, and the team are moving to potted trials.
- Entomopathogenic fungi (EPF) screening trials have been completed, with new isolates located in soil for stone fruit orchards.
Research and development outcomes
At the end of the Research Program, research outcomes and outputs will be integrated into fruit fly related biosecurity activities. They will support industry, landholders, and the community to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of activities to manage fruit fly.
Find out more
For general enquiries, contact fruitflyRDE@awe.gov.au