The Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation is supporting NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) research into biological control agents to better manage the biosecurity pest, Queensland fruit fly (Qfly).
Centre member and NSW DPI senior research scientist, Dr Olivia Reynolds, is examining how native parasitoid wasps, which attack the Qfly eggs and larvae, could be used to manage the pest.
"Qfly is a significant issue for Australia's $9 billion horticulture industry. They attack most commercial fruits and many fruiting vegetables, impacting on market access for Australian horticulture," Dr Reynolds said.
"Chemicals used to manage Qfly in the past have been restricted or banned, so identifying cost-effective and environmentally-friendly management is a priority.
"There are several native and edemic parasitoids that are natural enemies of Qfly and my team's collaborative research aims to understand more about how they can be used as part of area wide and intergrated pest management programs."
Sterile insect technique (SIT), where large numbers of sterile male flys are released to mate with wild females, is used to suppress, or even eradicate populations of Qfly, for example in oubreak situations in fruit fly free areas.
"With considerable investment in SIT in Australia, we are now researching complementary management practices, particularly the use of fruit fly parasitoids to manage Qfly," Dr Reynolds said.
"Modelling suggests combining SIT with parasitoids will be more effective than either technique on its own. Parasitoids are target specific, and environmentally 'soft', so their use may complement other Qfly management practices.
"We aim to put this to the test during November in walk-in field cage experiments at NSW DPI's Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute."
Dr Reynolds is also working with Plant & Food NZ, investigating what attracts the beneficial parasitoids to different fruits.
"The aim is to provide a balanced approach for horticultural industries, so growers can better use biological control agents to maximise their effectiveness and reduce pesticide use."
Dr Reynolds' research is supported by a Graham Centre Research Centre Fellowship. In 2017 the Centre awarded almost $500,000 in fellowships to support the research of its members.