Crop relief for Hawkesbury farmers

Hawkesbury scientists from the University of Western Sydney (UWS) are part of a breakthrough discovery in  reducing the Queensland fruit fly population that causes millions of dollars’ worth of damage to the local agriculture and horticultural industries.

Scientists are breeding single-sex sterile male fruit flies to be released in large numbers to suppress pest populations without harming the environment.

UWS researchers at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment identified the exact time a fruit fly becomes male or female. This will assist in the future development of mass-produced sterile male fruit flies.

Lead author of the study, Jennifer Morrow, said the male fruit flies will be released into the wild to help naturally suppress the population.

‘‘Understanding how they become male or female is crucial in the development of new bacterial or genetic approaches to pest control,’’ Dr Morrow said.

‘‘The challenge now will be producing sufficient quantities of sterilised fruit flies for release.’’

The breakthrough will be welcome news for Hawkesbury farmers in Australia’s multibillion-dollar fruit growing industry who have seen their pest control options gradually diminish.

‘‘For many years, farmers relied on insecticides that have become restricted in use because of their potential risk to human health and the environment,’’ Dr Morrow said.

‘‘The new advancement will be critical for the horticulture industry.’’

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