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Soil science tackles stable fly

THE solution to reducing the number of stable flies in vegetable crops may lay in the soil say Western Australian researchers who have discovered some effective chemical free options.
The economic impact of stable fly – also known as biting flies – is estimated to be in excess of $2.7 million in the Shire of Gingin alone.
Ongoing research by the Department of Agriculture and Food and the University of Western Australia has identified products that either contain microbes or appear to stimulate microbes in the soil that can reduce stable fly development by up to 80 per cent in some crops.
Speaking during National Science Week, DAFWA senior development officer Ian McPharlin said stable fly bred readily in vegetable residues after crops were harvested or abandoned.
“Up until now, the treatment of these residues by mulching, turning the irrigation off and spraying has been effective in reducing the fly numbers,” he said.
“The opportunity to introduce a ‘biological’ or chemical free option will give growers another effective, and possibly cheaper, method of stable fly control.
“Biological products that stimulated soil microbes which are capable of either eliminating stable fly eggs and/or developing larvae can be applied either directly onto the soil, to the growing plant, or to vegetable crop residues left after harvest.
“Any reduction in chemical use also reduces the risk of an increase in insecticide resistance.”
UWA entomologist David Cook said the research also looked at products that specifically contained fungi, which was lethal to insects.
He said initial results looked promising with a 40 to 60 per cent reduction in stable fly breeding using these products.
“More research on increasing the effectiveness of these fungal-based products will be looked at in the next phase of the project.”

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