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AUSTRALIA : Top End fruit fly trial could slash mango export costs and open up new markets

ABC Rural By Carmen Brown

Updated yesterday at 3:53pm

Fri 19 Sep 2014, 3:53pm

Researchers are hopeful an upcoming fruit fly trial will help Northern Territory mango growers reduce their export costs, and potentially open-up new markets overseas.

Over the next few weeks, NT Department of Primary Industry staff will begin strapping caged fruit flies to mango trees in commercial orchards near Darwin and Katherine, to find out how the pest interacts with the crop.

Entomologist Austin McLennan says if the trial can prove untreated mangoes present a low fruit fly infestation risk, growers could significantly reduce their post-harvest treatment expenses.

"We've shown the risk of untreated mangoes being infested with fruit fly is very, very low"

~Austin McLennan, NT Department of Primary Industry

"To access an interstate or international market you have to do certain things to guarantee those mangoes are fruit fly free,"
he said.

"Domestically we use some post-harvest chemical treatments, but internationally it's much more expensive.

"We usually have a requirement to use certain facilities, like a vapour heat treatment plant or an irradiation plant, and they're very expensive. They also cause issues with fruit quality.

"Our work really is about saying ok, we can already access some of these international markets, but it's hard, it's not a straight trip out of Darwin, it's a trip to Asia via Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

"So we're trying to find cheaper and better ways of doing that."

AUDIO: Entomologist Austin McLennan hopes the trial will prove untreated mangoes have a low fruit fly infestation risk(ABC Rural)

Dr McLennan says while there's already strong evidence that untreated mangoes present a low pest risk, the trial results will be critical in proving this to overseas trading partners.

"We're entering the last stage of three or four years worth of work, where we've shown the risk of untreated mangoes being infested with fruit fly is very, very low,"
he said.

"And in fact, as soon as you start to grade the fruit and select only premium quality fruit, most of that risk disappears, if not all of it.

"But what our market access regulators in other countries are going to say is 'prove that'.

"If our results to date are any indication, there's a chance we might not get any egg-lay or larval development in those fruit.

"If we get that result, it's a fantastic win for the industry straight-up."

Topics: rural, pest-management, agribusiness, fruit, agricultural-crops, katherine-0850

First posted yesterday at 11:18am

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