New centre leads pesticide-free fight against fruit fly

Date
8 August 2017
Faculty
Faculty of Science and Engineering

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Fruit fly poses the number one threat to the nation's $8 billion fruit and vegetable industry. A new Macquarie University team is set to tackle the threat.

A new weapon in the war against fruit fly was announced today with the launch of a new centre dedicated to delivering environmentally-friendly solutions to controlling Australia’s most economically damaging pest.

Researchers at the new Macquarie University Centre aim to find pesticide-free ways to control the rapidly reproducing insect, which poses the number one threat to the nation’s $8 billion fruit and vegetable industry.

Fears over the health effects of chemical anti-fly treatments on crops have lead to restrictions of insecticides in recent years, leaving the horticulture industry vulnerable to the flesh-eating pest.

But researchers at the new Australian Research Council Centre plan to develop new treatments to reduce industry reliance on hazardous synthetic insecticides.

Professor Phil TaylorProfessor Phil Taylor

“Fruit flies pose a serious risk to Australia’s horticultural sector, and sustained production of vulnerable crops will require new solutions for managing them,” said Centre Director Professor Phil Taylor. “We need to find ways to control these pests without relying on synthetic insecticides, and without harming the environment or people.”

Professor Taylor said researchers will focus on disrupting reproduction cycles of the flies and using predators like spiders to prevent multiplication. “We aim to contribute to solutions that will benefit not just the horticulture industries, but Australia’s food security, and to develop a knowledge and skill base that will have lasting impact,” said Professor Taylor.

Based at Macquarie University, the ARC Centre for Fruit Fly Biosecurity Innovation brings together Australia’s leading fruit fly researchers from Macquarie University, University of Western Sydney, Queensland University of Technology, NSW Department of Primary Industries, the QLD Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the CSIRO, the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research, and Ecogrow Environmental Ltd.

The ARC Centre for Fruit Fly Biosecurity Innovation is supported by $3.7 million from the Australian Government through the ARC’s Industrial Transformation Training Centres scheme and $70,000 of supplementary support from the NSW Department Industry Research Attraction and Acceleration Program, as well as substantial contributions from each of the participating organisations.

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