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– Benefits of SIT
– How SIT can help

Benefits of Sterile Insect Technique

The benefits of SIT are many: reduced fruit production costs, increased volumes of air-freighted fruit, less likelihood of trade embargoes, international recognition, a decrease in outflow of capital to purchase expensive pesticides, increased foreign exchange, infrastructure and capacity building, technology transfer, training, and the cost-effective and environmentally safe control and eradication of fruit flies.

In addition sterile insect technique will:

  • Improve the quality and quantity of fruit production while reducing pesticide use and promoting integrated pest management.
  • Enable resource-limited farmers and community dwellers in an SIT area to grow fruit fly-free, insecticide-free fruit for home consumption and to expand fruit production beyond subsistence levels
  • Create a stable environment conducive to crop diversification
  • Enable fruit producers and exporters to meet strict international sanitary and phytosanitary standards in order to retain existing export markets and qualify for entry into new markets
  • Create new jobs in agriculture and related industries
  • Create opportunities for deserving students to earn research fellowships
  • Protect the food supply and promote sustainable resource use through environmentally safe pest control and increased fruit production
  • Build coalitions, both domestic and international: government, industry, commercial and resource-limited farmers, academia, and international organisations.

SIT is not a new technique, but has over recent years been refined and successfully used in other countries to suppress or even eradicate a number of fruit fly species and other insect pests.

Evolution of Sterile Insect Technique in South Africa

Iaea Headquarters In Vienna
Iaea Headquarters In Vienna

The SIT programme in South Africa was initiated in 1996 to address the increasing need in the deciduous fruit industry to create fruit fly-free areas (alternatively, areas of low fruit fly prevalence) in the Western Cape. As fruit flies are international quarantine pests, they can restrict the free trade in export fruit. Significant market advantages are therefore possible if fruit can be exported from fruit fly-free areas.

In 1997, the Joint Food and Agriculture Organisation/International Atomic Energy Agency (FAO/IAEA) Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture of the United Nations approved funding for the Agricultural Research Council’s Institute for Fruit, Vine and Wine (ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij) in Stellenbosch to undertake a 4-year project: “The feasibility of implementing SIT against Mediterranean fruit flies in the Hex River Valley”.

As part of this original feasibility study, an SIT Pilot Project was initiated in the Hex River Valley with a view to suppressing Medflies in an economical and environmentally compatible manner. The Hex River Valley is geographically ideally suited for an SIT programme, being well isolated from adjacent areas which may have fruit flies. It is planted mainly with a single crop – table grapes. A cost-benefit study showed it to be economically the most favourable of all areas in the Western Cape for a fruit fly SIT programme, based on a comparison of conventional control costs versus estimated SIT costs.

Hex River Valley
Hex River Valley
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