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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Riverina fruit fly 'epidemic'

Home and commercial procducers have been left at risk after an outbreak of fruit fly in the Southern Riverina.

ZOE MCMAUGH January 18, 2013 4:58am

Deniliquin’s only commercial fruit growing venture could be under threat if the fruit fly outbreak in the region worsens.

More than 14,000 plum trees at the property ‘Terrica’, off Wakool Rd, have not been attacked, but there a number of local stories of fruit fly devastation.

Government funding for Riverina fruit fly control was cut last year, and the prevention of such devastation has been left up to the landholder.

Information on fruit fly in the local area has been minimal and the ability for fruit growers to effectively implement control has diminished.

The Pastoral Times only learned of the outbreak last week, despite a Mathoura resident saying she reported the pest about a month ago.

Judy Doolan had to destroy every single tomato plant she had in her garden because of fruit fly.

‘‘As the tomatoes ripened, I noticed they had a hole in them and had started to rot,’’ she said.

‘‘A friend of mine who has a nursery told me it was fruit fly, and I had to strip all the vines.

‘‘I contacted the DPI, after first contacting the Murray Shire Council, but I never heard back from anyone (at the DPI).

‘‘There has been no baiting and nobody has come to do a follow up. I made that call about a month ago.

‘‘When I detected fruit fly previously, something would happen straight away.

‘‘This is a very big concern.’’

While Mrs Doolan’s affected plants were only for personal use, her experience has raised significant concerns when it comes to large scale operations like at Terrica.

Any fruit affected by fruit fly has to be destroyed, and therefore cannot be sold.

It could represent a significant loss in investments.

Terrica caretaker Tom Todd said he was unaware of a fruit fly outbreak in the local area when contacted by the Pastoral Times.

He said if the pest was to get into the plum trees on the property, it had the potential to ruin the whole orchard.

‘‘The plums are just about ripe and ready to pick.

‘‘I don’t claim to be an expert about plums, but I do know what a fruit fly does and they could wreck the whole lot.

‘‘There’s only 14,000 trees out here, but if the fruit fly got in they would take out the whole lot in one step.’’

The regional fruit fly situation has been referred to as an ‘‘epidemic’’.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries announced last year it would take a step back from management of the pest after its funding was cut.

When it was announced, the department confirmed it would stop trapping and will walk away from managing fruit fly exclusion zones in the Riverina.

The Pastoral Times believe some block baits have been distributed throughout Deniliquin, but information about the pest and how it should be controlled has been minimal this year.

A DPI spokesperson said information had been sent to all Deniliquin residents by NSW Member for Murray-Darling John Williams.

The Pastoral Times discovered it was in the form of a newsletter sent to mail boxes in January last year.

Information about control was also sent to Mr Williams’ electorate office in September last year, but needs to be specifically asked for.

Despite confirming the control of fruit fly is now the responsibility of the landholders, a DPI spokesperson said the organisation was still ‘‘committed to supporting the work of the Riverina Biosecurity Committee by providing advisory and regulatory and compliance support’’.

He said DPI was working with the Riverina Biosecurity Committee and local government on a grower-driven biosecurity program that is ‘‘targeted, cost-effective and sustainable’’.

‘‘DPI remains committed to assisting industry control fruit fly and will continue to provide ongoing support to the industry, including targeted fruit fly surveillance, market access negotiations, certification, technical advice and broader fruit fly management research.’’

Further information on fruit fly control is available at http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/pests-weeds/insects/qff.

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