The Agricultural Research Council (ARC), has launched a three-year “F3 Fruit Fly Free” project that aims to relieve the country from the fruit fly.
Sub-Saharan Africa has suffered tremendous financial losses due to fruit flies. The most destructive of the insects, the Mediterranean fruit fly or medfly, infests over 260 different fruits, flowers, vegetables and even nuts, almost all grown in South Africa.
The medfly larvae hatch from eggs laid just under the surface of the fruit skin and feed while tunneling towards the centre of the fruit. This further exposes the fruit to secondary infestation by pests and pathogens, often leading to rotten, pulpy fruit. This leads to huge economic losses because the fruit can’t be sold.
According to a press release by ARC, the F3 project will target the Oriental (Bactrocera dorsalis), the Mediterranean (Ceratitis capitate) and the melon fruit fly (Zeugodacus cucurbitae).
One of the primary objectives of the project is to develop a regionally harmonised structure for the development and implementation of recognised pest-free areas and areas of low pest prevalence for regulated pests of commercial fruit commodities in Southern Africa (South Africa and Mozambique).
The project follows the directives of relevant international standards for phytosanitary measures as approved by the International Plant Protection Convention. It is a collaboration between various research institutions and government departments.
Other partners involved in the project include the departments of agriculture, land reform and rural development and its Mozambican counterpart, Citrus Research International, Stellenbosch University, Eduardo Mondlane University (Mozambique) and the Royal Museum for Central Africa (Belgium).
Dr Tertia Grove, a senior researcher at the tropical and subtropical crops division, explains the ARC’s role in the project. “The ARC has been appointed co-ordinator of this significant project because of its capacity built over 100 years as well as strong relations with other research partners globally.”
The project is funded by the World Trade Organization (WTO) standards and trade development facility. It supports countries in building capacity to implement international sanitary and phytosanitary standards, guidelines and recommendations.
Other objectives of the project include:
• Establishing pest-free areas in South Africa and Mozambique for target fruit fly species.
• Gathering scientific evidence for low levels of specified fruit fly prevalence for target fruit fly pests.
• Establishing areas of low pest prevalence in South Africa and Mozambique for target fruit fly species.
• Creating an operational database platform for determination of fruit fly status in different regions in South Africa and Mozambique.
• Creating an identification protocol and service for rapid and unambiguous recognition of target fruit fly pests and related taxa.
• Creating a financial model for maintenance of pest-free areas and areas of low pest prevalence for target fruit fly pests.
According to the Dr Shadrack Moephuli, CEO of the ARC, “Through various research and development programmes over the years, the ARC has been instrumental in improving South Africa’s agricultural productivity and global competitiveness while increasing the nation’s food security, reducing hunger and improving food and nutrition.”