Current Date: 28 May, 2024

Seychelles uses sterile insects to combat the outbreak of Melon flies

Last week, two technical pest management specialists were on a visit to Seychelles to assess current operations and plan for the future implementation of a large-scale initiative to reduce the local melon fly pest population.

Seychelles uses sterile insects to combat the outbreak of Melon flies.

They spoke with the local press on the situation here on Friday, the final day of their assignment.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and also the Ministry of Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment are working together to solve challenges brought on by melon flies, a pest that was first introduced to Seychelles in November 1999.

Since its introduction, several crops' yields and production have suffered significantly, especially cucurbit plants like melon, pumpkin, squash, and cucumber. This has brought on a really negative experience on local farmers' livelihoods and productivity.

According to Preeaduth Sookar, the principal scientific officer of the Entomology Division within the Agricultural Services Ministry of Agro-Industry and Food Security of Mauritius, the pest will cause significant damage if left unchecked, which means farmers will likely use more pesticides, which is bad for the environment.

While several techniques have been used over the years to try to manage the pest, Seychelles is getting ready to use another technology that is among the most environmentally friendly: the sterile insect technique (SIT).

At Anse Boileau, these techniques have already been shown to be effective. There are roughly 119 farmers in the area, and they have succeeded in lowering the fly population.

However, we wish to try a novel approach that involves dispersing sterile flies. He stated that the flies would be created and radioactively treated in Mauritius before being shipped to Seychelles.

According to Mr Sookar, the goal is to start releasing the sterile flies in March of the next year for about a 12-week period to determine whether we can diminish or even completely eradicate the population, enabling farmers to grow high-quality fruits and vegetables without the use of pesticides.

Mass-produced insects are sterilized through irradiation, such as with gamma rays and X-rays, such that they can still compete for mates but are unable to reproduce.

As a result, the program is anticipated to decrease the melon fly population while also decreasing the use of pesticides and enhancing the production of high-quality, nutritious food.

The pilot project will see 1.6 million sterile flies released weekly at Anse Boileau to control the existing population. This is in addition to being a preventive measure of control against the oriental fruit fly, which has been wreaking havoc across the African continent.

The above verdict was according to Rui Cardoso Pereira, Head of Insect Pest Control at the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization and IAEA Centre for Nuclear Application on Food and Agriculture.

"The method, in general, has been used for sixty to seventy years to control several insects, not just fruit flies". The screwworm fly, which infests cattle, was the method's initial target; Mr Pereira said that it has since been exterminated throughout the US, Central America, and Panama.

"Chile currently has no fruit flies, which gives them many benefits when it comes to exporting fruits. Importing nations must treat products after harvest in order to deal with fruit fly infestations in exporting nations.

This requires either cold water treatment or hot water treatment, which raises the price of the goods. Mr Pereira continued, "Produce from fruit fly-free nations can be imported for considerably less expensively, representing for the importing country no risk of acquiring the pest."

Farmers in Seychelles can use different methods in the interim to manage the population while minimizing damage to their crops. When used appropriately, traps and baits can be found for little to no cost and have been shown to be efficient at controlling pests.

Last week on Monday, the specialists arrived in the nation, and they left on Friday. They were tasked with analyzing the ongoing fieldwork and baseline data gathering for melon flies.

They need to make suggestions on ways to enhance baseline data gathering and organize the shipments and requirements of the sterile insects for the pilot area.

Excellence Chukwuma Chukwunaedu

Excellence Chukwuma Chukwunaedu

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