Area-wide management of fruit flies in a tropical mango growing area integrating the sterile insect technique and biological control: From a research to an operational programme

Liedo, P., Montoya, P. , and Toledo, J.,  AREA-WIDE INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT: Development and Field Application,  2021.

The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) has been successfully used for the control of fruit flies in a number of places in the world. One requirement for its successful application is that wild populations should be at low densities to achieve effective sterile to wild fly overflooding ratios. This has been an important reason that has limited its integration in fruit fly management in tropical fruit growing areas, where climate conditions and the availability of hosts all year-round results in high population densities. Here we report the results of a project where SIT integration into fruit fly management was evaluated under the tropical conditions of the mango growing area in the Soconusco region of Chiapas, Mexico. The basis for the area-wide integrated pest management (AW-IPM) approach was the knowledge of the population dynamics of the pest fruit flies in the region and of the fruit phenology. The main commercial mango growing areas are in the lowlands, where fruit fly populations are very low outside of the mango production season. Population densities are higher in the midlands and highlands, where alternate hosts are common in backyards and as part of the natural vegetation. We call these refuge areas, and the AW-IPM approach aimed at establishing a biological barrier with releases of parasitoids and sterile male fruit flies to suppress the fruit fly populations and prevent or minimize the dispersal of wild flies from the refuge areas to the mango orchards. In 2014, after two years of releases, fruit fly population densities were suppressed more than 70% in the release area and 65% in the entire area, including the lowlands with the mango orchards. With the support of fruit growers, state and federal governments, this project was continued and established as an operational AW-IPM programme. In 2016, after 4 years of programme implementation, the detection of wild flies was significantly reduced, and the number of batches of fruit that were rejected at the packing houses due to the detection of infested fruits was the lowest in the past 12 years, since the recording of these data was initiated. These indicators declined even further in 2017. The results obtained demonstrate that AW-IPM integrating the SIT can be applied successfully against fruit flies under tropical conditions with naturally high pest densities, providing there is adequate knowledge on the population dynamics of the fruit fly species present in the region.

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