R2 million to help agricultural sector suppress pest affecting export crops

The Western Cape Department of Agriculture has handed over a R2 million cheque to the Citrus Growers Association (CGA) to support their Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) Programme aimed at suppressing False Codling Moth (FCM).

False Codling Moth is a phytosanitary pest affecting export crops including citrus, table grapes, and stone fruit.

The programme offers immense potential in reducing pests and ensuring that South African agricultural products meet the strict standards required by international markets.

The programme, which uses cutting-edge science, also reduces the reliance on environmentally harmful pesticides and leads to improved fruit quality.

Western Cape Agriculture MEC Dr Ivan Meyer said addressing False Codling Moth will contribute to increased export earnings for especially the citrus industry, creating jobs and uplifting rural communities.

‘Colonies of False Codling Moth are raised in special facilities where the male and female insects are sterilised using radiation from the isotope Cobal
t-60 and are safely released in large numbers. Females mated with sterile males then lay eggs that do not hatch. A large decline in the pest population follows,’ Meyer said.

Meyer said the trials for the programme in Citrusdal began in 2005 through a collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

‘The successes that followed lead to the founding of X Sterile Insect Technique (X-SIT). X-SIT now administers the SIT programme lending the programme their expertise.

‘Despite its immense potential, the SIT programme faces challenges in that it is expensive. The high cost of SIT compared to cheaper but much less sustainable alternatives threatens its long-term viability,’ Meyer said.

The MEC said the programme currently covers 20 400 hectares but has the potential to expand to over 4 ,000 hectares with adequate funding, and this could facilitate the creation of an estimated 50 job opportunities.

Meyer said the Citrus Growers Association has emphasised
the critical need for financial support to sustain and grow the program, ensuring the continued production of export-quality residue-free fruit.

Meyer said the entire programme is currently funded by citrus and table grape growers who use the service themselves.

However, he said, the R2 million funding would alleviate some of the financial burden of the Western Cape growers and help ensure the continuation and expansion of this vital pest management strategy.

“Our support for the SIT programme underscores our commitment to a sustainable agricultural sector. This funding will help secure the future of our citrus industry, ensuring that it remains competitive in the global market while protecting our environment and creating jobs,’ Meyer said.

Citrus Growers Association CEO Justin Chadwick expressed his gratitude, saying the support from the provincial government is a significant boost for X-SIT and everyone involved.

‘The CGA hopes this type of agricultural innovation will find widespread support, as deve
loping new technologies, though essential, does not come cheaply,” Chadwick said.

Source: South African Government News Agency

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