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30 November 2009

Scientists are using SIT techniques to protect olive crops and olive oil…

The small innocuous-looking pest the Bactrocera oleae or commonly known as the olive fruit fly is capable of infesting up to 90% of a farmer’s fruit. This insect poses a serious threat to the olive and olive oil industries in southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and the USA.

Scientists from the Joint Division of the IAEA and the UN´s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) are working on a project to control the fly. They are using the proven and environmentally-friendly Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) which uses radiation to sterilise pests.

This technique, also known as “birth control for insects”, suppresses populations by breeding large numbers of sterile males. When released into the wild, they breed with females who in turn produce eggs that do not hatch.
The IAEA´s Laboratories at Seibersdorf, south of Vienna in Austria have been supporting the Israeli olive fly project for several years. Scientists there have bred wild Israeli flies with female flies, and their offspring, sending the sterilised pupae to Israel for early experiments in olive orchards.

David Nestel and his team are currently releasing around 40,000 sterile flies a week in an isolated, olive-growing plot in the Lahav Forest in the Negev region of Israel. The project will run until December 2010.
Future developments include effective and mass rearing techniques to produce the millions of sterile flies needed for SIT to work effectively in the field.

For the complete story visit the IAEA website.