Stellenbosch University team helping to save Europe's fruit
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Cape Town – The eastern fruit fly (Bactrocera dorsalis) and the peach fruit fly (Bactrocera zonata) are invasive species and considered threats to the production and marketing of fruit in Europe.
Insect experts from Stellenbosch University’s (SU) Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology are now part of a large research project to develop the technology needed to better detect, prevent and manage Europe’s growing fruit fly problem.
Involving experts from 15 countries, the university’s research group of Prof John Terblanche, an expert in insect physiology, and Prof Pia Addison, an expert on pest management, are involved in the “in-silico boosted, pest prevention and off-season focused integrated pest management against new and emerging fruit flies” project, dubbed the OFF-Season FF-IMP project.
The project focuses on three specific species of true fruit flies: the eastern fruit fly, the peach fruit fly and the Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata), which has become an emerging problem, even in temperate fruit production areas on the continent.
Terblanche said the SU team will gather data for fruit fly populations found in southern Africa.
“The data, thanks to EU funding, will be put to use by our European colleagues, but is also available to our own fruit and vegetable sector to better manage these species.
"The completion of many of these tasks requires adequate information about the species’ physiology, distribution and ability to withstand environmental stresses,” Terblanche said.
Among the experiments to be run by the SU research teams include on the minimum and maximum environmental stresses, such as heat or food restriction, that a particular species of fruit fly can endure.
Their ability to disperse over great distances will also be tracked.
The FF-IPM project is funded by the EU under its Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Action programme.
It is co-ordinated by the Entomology and Agricultural Zoology Laboratory of the University of Thessaly in Greece.
“FF-IPM is an effort to implement measures to prevent major invasions by these fruit flies. It aims to eradicate them by focusing on specific out-of-season periods which are crucial to the insects’ development cycle.
"Innovative tools are being developed to prevent infected fruit from being transported or sold. This includes a sensory device that picks up the odour released by larvae inside fruit.
"Methods will also be devised to locate emerging populations as early as possible using automated, real-time trapping methods.
"Population dynamic computer programmes will be used to ensure biological control,” the university said.