Regular use of insecticides reduces the soil’s agricultural value and is in contradiction to the principles of sustainable agriculture, which strives to conserve natural resources. The reduction in insecticide use is also very important for preserving public health.
The Mediterranean Fruit Fly is a major pest, which attacks more than 50 different types of fruit in Israel, mostly citrus groves and orchards, and lately, also sweet peppers. Sometimes farmers had to spray citrus groves 18 or more times per season in order to prevent damage by the Mediterranean Fruit Fly. The pest’s presence prevents marketing fruit in the United States, Europe, and the Far East.
Damage is caused after the female fly lays its eggs in the fruit. Emerging maggots feed upon the fruit, damaging it and causing it to rot. A generation in the lifespan of the Mediterranean Fruit Fly is 24 days to 3 months or more depending on environmental factors. The increase in the number of crops the fly attacks enables it to multiply each year.
The Bio-Fly Company at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu symbolizes the revolution in implementing a regional disinfestation interface based upon releasing sterile flies. The method is to sterilize the male flies using gamma radiation and disperse them in large numbers over large contiguous agricultural areas. The sterile males mate with the female flies at the expense of fertile males. Since most of the females mate only once in their lifetime, the fly population drops continuously along with the need for chemical sprays to disinfest them.