Pest control: Seychelles to release 19.2 million sterile male melon flies in 2023
The melon fly is a pest that affects the production of cucurbit, a plant of the gourd family, which includes melon, pumpkin, squash and cucumber. (Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service)
(Seychelles News Agency) - In 2023, about 19.2 million sterile male melon flies are expected to be released in one district of Seychelles, aimed at reducing the population of the pest in this area and increasing the quality and quantity of fruit and vegetable production.
Arriving in Seychelles in November 1999, the melon fly, Bactrocera cucurbitae, is a pest that has affected the production of cucurbit, a plant of the gourd family, which includes melon, pumpkin, squash, and cucumber.
Identified as a serious agricultural pest in many countries of the world, including Seychelles, the female melon flies lay their eggs in fruits and vegetables, causing the host to rot. This reduces the ability of farmers to produce high yields when harvesting their crops.
Through the pilot project that will be undertaken at Anse Boileau on the main island of Mahe, farmers will be able to reduce the use of pesticides which also affect insects that help in agriculture. It is also expected to increase the quantity and quality of yields and help protect the environment.
The project is being carried out by the agriculture ministry in collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Each week, over 12 weeks as of March 2023, 1.6 million sterile male melon flies will be released in the district. These flies will be produced in a laboratory in Mauritius.
The principal scientific officer of the entomology division of the Mauritian Ministry of Agro Industry and Food Security, Preeaduth Sookar, told the press on Friday that this is not the only technique used to control the population of melon flies.
"Through surveillance, we can estimate the population size. Then we need to apply sanitation where infected fruits and vegetables need to be properly disposed of, by either placing them in bags or burying them at least 30 centimetres under the ground. The other thing is using a protein-based insecticide bait, attracting and killing adult flies," said Sookar.
He outlined that these are already being applied in Anse Boileau, allowing farmers to control the population, which is not the case in other districts. Sookar added that the ongoing pilot project needs to be extended to other districts and islands to have a national improvement.
The head of the Insect Pest Control section of the IAEA, Rui Cardoso Pereira, said that through this project, the IAEA "has the possibility to provide capacity, and equipment such as X-ray machines at the airport and ports" to screen for oriental fruit fly and prevent its introduction into the country.