13 April 2016

By Dr Penny Measham

To help control one of horticulture’s biggest pests, Queensland fruit fly, a horticulture-wide research program is underway to advance sterile insect technology, but this technology will be most successful if adopted alongside Area Wide Management. Dr Penny Measham reminds us what area wide management is and how it can be implemented now.

We are all eagerly awaiting the arrival of sterile insect technology (SIT) because a comprehensive SIT program is widely acknowledged as having the capacity to improve and maintain market access. While this research progresses, the time for a concerted effort to implement area wide management (AWM) is now.

The practice of AWM is considered vital to control fruit fly and it enhances the success of SIT. AWM has been used to successfully to manage other fruit flies around the world in Chile, Israel, Mexico and South Africa. Australia could use the knowledge gained from these international experiences to successfully manage Queensland fruit fly (Qfly) through the coordinated implementation of AWM across the country.


Essentially AWM is a pest management strategy employed across a well-defined local area or region, including all fly habitats within that area, in order to reduce the total Qfly population. A reduced population in all habitats reduces the likelihood of Qfly moving into farms and orchards from habitats such as backyard gardens and/or native hosts. This means that any strategies used on-farm should become more effective, and over-time contribute to lower pest populations.

[gdlr_quote align=”center” ]Ensuring all habitats within an area are appropriately managed is not an easy task because AWM requires that any and all control methods are synchronised and coordinated. This coordination could be across neighbouring orchards, across an urban setting, or across both production and urban settings. It requires commitment and participation from all community members including gardeners, growers and government.[/gdlr_quote]


AWM is seen as a sustainable pest control approach that is not entirely reliant on chemicals. With the loss of key chemical controls for Qfly such as dimethoate and fenthion, AWM provides a good alternative solution.

Qfly can breed and achieve large populations off-farm which can often go unnoticed or unmanaged. In fact, AWM is an appropriate choice for Qfly because it matches the biology of the fly.

Traits of Qfly that make it a suitable target of AWM:

  • Mobile – Qfly can readily move from neighbouring land back into production areas. AWM treats all areas so reduces the likelihood of flies repopulating orchards.
  • Polyphagous – Qfly lay eggs onto a large number of different plants. AWM treats all areas including all potential host plants that support Qfly populations, including native hosts.
  • Multivoltine – Qfly produce multiple generations within a season. AWM treatment includes all areas and populations at all different stages.


AWM is a long-term approach and needs to be considered across the year, as per management of Qfly on-farm. The methods or treatments used in AWM can be the same as those used on-farm, depending on the acceptance of those methods by the wider regional community. Treatments used on-farm such as hygiene, baiting, trapping and monitoring can be used off-farm as part of an integrated AWM program.

Hygiene, such as removal or control of breeding habitats in an urban space is a challenge for AWM. Trapping provides a good option in urban areas as traps are contained and require little maintenance. Finding the best suite of strategies for your area takes time and planning.

AWM needs to be well considered and the sooner these factors are considered the sooner an effective AWM approach can start.


Any AWM approach requires coordination, consistency and continuity. Commitment from all involved is vital. The SITplus consortium is dedicated to implementing an integrated AWM approach and the ‘Adaptive Area Wide Management of Qfly using SIT’ project is seeking to develop guidelines for adaptive AWM of Qfly that is suitable for the incorporation of SIT.

For example, one component of the project is developing a habitat suitability model that will be tested in the field later in the year.

This will lead to a better understanding of where and when Qfly is present, which can inform decisions on the allocation of resources for AWM and SIT.

The social component of the project is about to undertake focus group sessions in five regional areas to unravel the key factors that create barriers to, and encourage involvement in, an AWM approach. The economics component is working on a baseline costing model for current management practices and leading to comparative economic analyses with AWM and SIT.

As results and new discoveries come to light they will be incorporated into our on-the-ground support of AWM. We will communicate up to date knowledge about AWM in each region because we understand it is difficult to participate in anything when you don’t know what’s involved or why.

The ‘Adaptive Area Wide Management of Qfly using SIT’ project is committed to providing practical outcomes and ensuring research is applicable regionally.

[gdlr_quote align=”center” ]It has been very encouraging to see such a high level of input from growers to date, especially given that it has been a busy harvesting time for many. Information from the recent Qfly survey is extremely valuable as it is being used to inform future support for regions including regionally-focused extension and AWM support.[/gdlr_quote]

There is genuine interest and positivity from growers about the development of AWM and the potential use of sterile insect technology within the context of AWM.[gdlr_divider type=”solid” size=”50%” ]


This project is supported by Horticulture Innovation Australia Ltd and CSIRO through funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit Programme. The project is part of the SITplus initiative, and the project partners include Wine Australia; Primary Industries and Regions South Australia; Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Victoria; Department of Primary Industries, NSW; South Australian Research and Development; and BioBee.

About the author

Dr Penny Measham is the Qfly Area Wide Management Coordinator, Horticulture Innovation Australia Ltd. For more information contact penny.measham@horticulture.com.au or 0417 525 904

This article was reproduced from Australian Fruit Grower