Mauritian fruit fly war

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At the island’s new irradiator facility, Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) is used to suppress reproduction in this pest. SIT involves rearing and irradiating large numbers of male sterile flies and repeatedly releasing them onto lands to mate with females, in the process outcompeting wild males.

Over time, this reduces or even eliminates the population.

According to a statement, the new irradiation unit will more than double the country’s capacity to use SIT by releasing as many as one million sterile fruit flies per week, up from 400 000.

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Mauritius loses more than €4 million (R69 million) annually as a result of crop damage caused by fruit flies.

The unit, set up at a cost of €280 000 (R4,8 million), was partly sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Nando Baard, manager at FruitFly Africa, told Farmer’s Weekly that in South Africa, estimated direct damage by fruit flies in the deciduous fruit and table grapes industries was about R90 million a year. This was based on the assumption that all areas and cultivars were equally affected by the pest.

Direct damage to fruit was not the main concern, he said. As fruit fly is a quarantine pest, it can prevent access to new markets or even lead to the loss of existing ones.

“This would be a lot more costly for the fresh fruit industry than direct damage caused by the pest,” he said.