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La Nina responsible for large Q-fly population in Victoria

Organic farmer Ant Wilson's summer fruit harvest looked a little different this year.


As he walked along his orchard in Harcourt, in Central Victoria, his plums seemed ripe, but he could see tiny puncture marks and softening fruit.


"When I opened them up, there's tiny larvae moving inside, making the fruit mushy and gross — I couldn't sell this," Mr Wilson said.


"We picked a whole bucket of plums this morning, and it's affecting our apricots — it's hard to know how many have been affected."


Queensland fruit fly (QFF), a serious pest that can infest many types of fruit and fruiting vegetables, has been detected in the central Victorian town of Castlemaine, Harcourt and Harcourt North.


Two recent fruit fly outbreaks in South Australia's Riverland region are causing serious problems for fruit producers, who are scrambling to put in place strict quarantine measures to stop the spread.


Farmer says first time seen fruit fly

Mr Wilson said although there had been reports of the pest in Central Victoria over the past few years, he believed it was the first time he had seen it.

"I've got about 4000 fruit trees, which is about four hectares of fruit trees, and I've found the larvae in a couple different varieties of nectarines, and some peaches and apricots," he said.

"So what we're doing now for the rest of the season is we've got a grid of traps out, to trap the males, and we'll also be putting out an organised bait spray.


"Also everything that we pick is going to sit in the chiller for two weeks. So if there is anything that's affected that we can't sort out, any larvae or eggs, will be dead."


But being an organic farmer, Mr Wilson is resistant to using any types of spray. He hopes the industry will come up with a natural solution to the problem.


"Maybe we need to better address things like climate change," Mr Wilson said.


"It's Queensland fruit fly, so it's coming from a subtropical, if not tropical region which Victoria is not.


"If the climate is changing and getting warmer here, then maybe that's why the fly is getting more of a foothold here."


'Particularly challenging year'


Agriculture Victoria's statewide fruit fly coordinator Cathy Mansfield said this year had been particularly challenging for QFF, because of the La Nina weather patterns in Victoria.


"It's replicating what it's like to be in Queensland," she said.


"We're seeing higher populations of fruit fly this summer across the whole state."


She said there were good quarantine measures for industry to tackle the pest in Victoria, but she was concerned about its presence in home gardens.


"It's really important for home gardeners to manage fruit fly because you don't want the populations to build up," Ms Mansfield said.


Tips for home gardeners

Ms Mansfield said there were some easy ways to identify and treat fruit fly at home.


"The way they can identify it in their garden is to look at the fruit, and you should be able to see little, tiny stings on the fruit, they look like a pinprick," she said.


"When you cut it open, you may see white larvae, but sometimes you may only see the stings."


Ms Mansfield said all infected fruit should be removed from the tree, put in a bag and left in the sun for seven days — or in the freezer — to kill the maggots.

"It's really important not to put the fruit in the compost because it's the perfect environment for the QFF. It reflects where they're from, a tropical environment," she said.

"Home gardeners should be covering their fruit trees and vegetables with a fine fruit fly netting if you are concerned.


"And there are traps that you can use to monitor fruit fly, they are pheromone-based, which means they are species-specific, so they'll catch QFF."


For more information on ways to control Queensland fruit fly in home gardens, log on to Agriculture Victoria's website.


Photo: Organic farmer Ant Wilson says it's the first time he's seen Queensland fruit fly in his Victorian orchard (Source: ABC, Eden Hynninen).


Acknowledgement: this article was reproduced from a media release by ABC News.

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