Home gardens emerge during pandemic

The Goulburn Murray Valley Fruit Fly office is advice and expertise to deal with the fruit fly after a surge in enquries from the public wanting to grow their own fruit and vegetables due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

GMV Regional Fruit Fly Co-ordinator Ross Abberfield said COVID-19 restrictions are escalating daily and more and more people have opted to grow their own fruit and vegetables, with a reported run on vegetable seedling and seed sales in recent weeks and months.

“The government is enforcing social distancing measures and we are being contacted by people who want to avoid going into crowded places like supermarkets. Many have self- isolated and are looking for advice on growing their own produce at home, so they can de- stress and eat fresh,” Mr Abberfield said.

“GMV residents and those around the country have been assured our food security is not under threat and that Australia produces more than enough fresh produce to abundantly feed our nation, with Victoria a major contributor to the nation’s food bowl. Our supermarkets and food suppliers will remain open and we’re being reminded there is no need for panic buying,” he said.

“For those that have extended their vegetable gardens or started a garden for the first time it is important that they are aware of the steps we all need to take to reduce the spread of fruit fly, which is critical in protecting our horticulture industry.

“We all know that fruit and vegetables are full of antioxidants that strengthen our immune system and the question I am being asked is, how can I be sure that what I grow will not be ruined by fruit fly?”.

The answer is simple, ‘Pick, Prune, Protect’. As part of the “No Flies On Us” – Let’s Stop Queensland Fruit Fly strategy, the GMV Fruit Fly Project supplies free information packs (expanding on the three P’s message) to community, industry and government. Information packs are available from customer service centres in Greater Shepparton, Moira, Berrigan, Campaspe and Strathbogie Shires.

Many other community and government organisations around Australia have adopted the GMV Fruit Fly Area Wide Management model as a means of controlling fruit fly in their areas.

“The aim is to instil ownership of issue by creating awareness, education and engagement in the community, industry and government so we reduce fruit fly populations and continue to produce high quality fruit and vegetables, both domestically and commercially,” Mr Abberfield said.

This has been achieved through the installation and monitoring of numerous regional QFF Trapping Grids, identifying and targeting hot spot locations, deploying field officers to assist landowners, providing the community and growers with monthly updates, forecasting and best practice advice, QFF awareness media campaigns, schools education and trap making programs, community and grower workshops and the free removal of unmanaged fruit habitat.

The CMV Regional Fruit Fly project has achieved more than a 60 per cent reduction of QFF numbers across the region and a 73 per cent reduction in the township of Cobram in Moira Shire.

The project’s success was highlighted after being independently awarded the Victorian Regional Achiever and Agricultural Innovation Awards in 2019. As the COVID-1 9 crisis continues, we must all unite to ensure that our quality food supply is protected and maintained.

“If GMV residents make the decision to grow more fruit and vegetables in their backyards, they need to know how to stop QFF infesting their produce. This means they have to instigate their own monitoring, prevention and control activities to ensure they can have clean, green produce at their fingertips,” Mr Abberfield said.

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