AT TIPPING POINT: Local fruit growers are concerned the region has reached a tipping point with fruit fly management and are urging householders to manage their trees or remove them.

CONCERNS from local fruit growers that the Greater Sunraysia region has reached a tipping point with fruit fly management has led to them urging householders to decide now whether to put the effort required to manage their trees, or remove them.

The Greater Sunraysia Pest Free Area (GSPFA) says fruit fly numbers have exploded over the past month with the rain across the region.

The GSPFA committee has received an increase in reports of fruit with maggots, in loquats, early apricots, peaches and nectarines, with the current tropical conditions being ideal for fruit fly populations to explode.

Local grower-member of the committee, John Argiro, said people were struggling to come to terms with the effort and cost of controlling fruit fly in their backyards.

“It’s a week-on-week commitment to do it properly and it costs time and money,” Mr Argiro said. “Control sprays need to start at least six to eight weeks before harvest and the tropical weather will make controlling fruit fly even more difficult, even when you’ve done everything right.

“The reality now is that growing fruit requires 100 percent commitment. Unmanaged fruit trees need to be removed straight away because they are too great a risk to our industry.”

Fruit fly is seen as such an important issue that the table grape, stone fruit and citrus industries together with the Victorian Government are providing funding to help reduce the number of fruit trees.

Mr Argiro said the committee was encouraged by fantastic support from people who wanted to protect the horticultural industry and who had decided to take part in the tree removal program.

GSPFA co-ordinator, Deidre Jaensch, said that nearly 800 trees had been removed under the program.

“This past month we have received a lot of enquiries from people wanting to take advantage of the funding especially when they have found fruit fly in their fruit,” Ms Jaensch said.

“We expect a lot more requests as the season continues with the peak in fruit fly numbers observed to occur in January.

“It’s difficult for even the very committed backyard gardeners to get control of fruit fly especially when the weather is so conducive for the flies to reproduce. In town it is very difficult to protect your trees when there is a continual source of re-infestation across the neighbourhood.

“We’ve had backyard fruit growers practically in tears with frustration that all the work and money they have put in has come to nothing, even after a number of years of trying.”

Ms Jaensch said for some people, the decision to remove their fruit trees was a difficult one.

“But people who’ve participated in the program say there’s a sense of relief, too, that they no longer have that worry that they may be contributing to the problem,” she said.

“This is not anyone’s fault. Rather it is a new reality that we are all trying to cope with.

“Yes, it’s disappointing for gardeners to find maggots in fruit despite their best efforts, but for growers, it can be devastating.”

Commercial growers are particularly concerned about house blocks and ‘lifestyle’ properties scattered in the horticultural areas that usually have a fruit salad of trees providing a constant source of host plants all year round.

“We’re urging people to make the right decision to remove trees now as a matter of urgency,” Ms Jaensch said.

Anyone wanting to take advantage of the tree removal program can contact GSPFA on 5022 0327, visit the website on www.pestfreearea.com.au or email idc@greatersunraysiapfa.com.au

Information and tips are available on the GSPFA Facebook page – search for Greater Sunraysia Pest Free Area.