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Biological control of fruit flies

Biological control of fruit flies

Written by Quinton

Many people know Boschendal for its wine, however the farm produces a serious amount of fruit, historically it was a part of Rhodes Fruit Farms founded by Cecil John Rhodes, and last year alone the farm produced 1800 tonnes of exceptionally high quality fruit.

Boschendal is also starting to establish itself as a vibrant farm to table food destination in the winelands. So, creating a healthy and sustainable food system that benefits us all is a key part of the farm’s vision.

Put the not so humble Fruit Fly (Ceratitis capitata; Ceratitis rose; Ceratitis cosyra being the three species) into the mix and, as you can imagine, the natural/ethical and commercial farming tensions come into play.  Without adequate control these fellas can ruin an entire fruit crop in a week!

Spraying insecticide is effective but it’s not good news for the environment and the farm actively looks to minimise the use thereof. Enter Jacques du Toit, our Fruit Manager, and a guy who is always seeking new and better ways of doing things. Over a glass of wine Jacques excitedly told me about a very successful trial he had done with a biological product to control fruit flies and he was now extending this across a larger part of our crop.

Seeing is believing, and so the next day I joined him in the one pear orchard where some of the trees are over 60 years old. Jacques pulled out a dispenser, Dirty Harry style, and inserted a product called Last Call.  He applied a rice grain size drop to three leaves on a pear tree. He had hardly finished applying a drop to the third leaf when two fruit flies appeared and made straight for a drop. Jacques didn’t say anything but I think even he was a little surprised as to how quickly they rocked up!

This biological product is a great alternative to spraying insecticides. The paste like droplets contain ginger (very attractive to fruit flies) and a pheromone which “calls” the male fly of the species to mate with the droplet. When the fly comes into contact with the droplet, it picks up enough of a mild insecticide to kill it within minutes, thereby depleting the male population over time and preventing reproduction.

I was impressed, this looks like a great advance in sustainable pest control - unlike spray applications, this biological product has no contact with the fruit, it only needs to be applied every 5 weeks and it helps to minimise our impact on the environment.

Good job Jacques!

Jacques applies a drop of a biological fly control agent to a leaf
Jacques applies a drop of a biological fly control agent to a leaf
Two fruit flies on a leaf
A pear tree
A man applying a fly control agent to a tree