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Plan to attack fruit fly

Terry Willis from Harcourt Fruit Fly Action Group with a Queensland fruit fly trap.

A local Landcare group has developed a community-led plan to manage fruit fly in the event of an outbreak in Harcourt.

Thursday 3 October 2019

Harcourt Fruit Fly Action Group has developed an emergency plan to manage an outbreak of Queensland Fruit Fly (QFF) specifically for residential backyard growers, schools and small horticultural producers.

The plan is thought to be the first of its kind to take a community-led rather than commercial-grower approach to managing the pest.

“We know there’s fruit fly in nearby areas so we wanted to create a plan that helps backyard growers know what they can do to protect their fruit and vegetables from fruit fly and prevent the spread if there is an outbreak,” said Terry Willis from Harcourt Fruit Fly Action Group and Harcourt Landcare Group.

“Part of the appeal of living in the country is being able to grow delicious fruit and veg in your backyard. Fruit fly can absolutely devastate your crop, and impact our local horticulture industry,” said Mr Willis.

“A fruit fly outbreak impacts not only backyard and commercial growers. It would also have significant economic flow-on effects for the entire community.”

The group has worked with Mount Alexander Shire Council supported by a grant from Agriculture Victoria.

“The emergency outbreak plan is developed for Harcourt, but could easily be adapted to other communities,” said Mr Willis.

“It outlines clear steps including confirming that it’s QFF we’re dealing with, who to contact, how to destroy affected fruit, how as a community we’ll set up monitoring traps and the recommended approach to baiting and eradication,” he said.

Harcourt Valley produces 40 per cent of Victoria’s apples as well as pears and stone fruit.

Community information sessions are planned for Castlemaine, Newstead and Maldon in November, with a session planned for Harcourt in early 2020.

“At the sessions we’ll explain the emergency plan, give people information about what to look out for, how the traps work and key contacts,” said Mr Willis.

“I’ve previously lived in places that are rife with fruit fly. Having your entire crop destroyed is absolutely devastating.

“Plenty of people just give up growing their own fruit and veg because it becomes too hard, so we want to be on the front foot and do what we can to make sure this doesn’t happen here,” he said.

The Harcourt Valley Queensland Fruit Fly Emergency Outbreak Plan is available on Council’s website at www.mountalexander.vic.gov.au/fruitfly along with other resources including the Ernie the Fruit Fly videos developed by Council and City of Greater Bendigo. More resources will be continually added.

For more information on what you can do visit Agriculture Victoria’s website www.agriculture.vic.gov.au or call their Customer Service Centre on 136 186. A wide range of products are available from nurseries, chemical resellers and hardware stores to control flies and protect fruit from damage.

The emergency plan and community engagement plan was funded by a $10,000 grant from the Victorian Government.

Tips on managing Queensland fruit fly

• Don’t bring infected fruit in from other areas.
• Set traps to monitor and reduce fruit fly numbers (you can watch videos on Council’s website to see how you can make your own trap, or talk to your local garden supplier about the different types that are available).
• Remove unwanted fruit from trees, collect fallen fruit from the ground and dispose of fruit correctly including boiling, freezing or placing in a sealed plastic bag in the sun for at least five days.
• Keep fruit trees well pruned.
• Place fruit fly nets over your fruit trees and vegetables.

Image: Terry Willis with a male Queensland fruit fly trap.

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