Controlling flies with more flies: the Mendoza method to save production
The province of Mendoza is well known for its wines, but also for its great fruit production. But to be a power, this regional economy had to fight the main threat of crops: the mediterranean fruit fly. The Institute of Agricultural Health and Quality Mendoza (ISCAMEN) developed the autocidal method, that allows controlling the pest with the pest itself. This practice uses sterile males to avoid offspring.
ISCAMEN breeds male flies in a natural environment; that are irradiated leaving them sterile. Then the insects are released strategically and when crossing with the wild females do not leave offspring. In the 1980s, the bioplant produced 140 million male flies per week. In 2008 with the construction of a new facility, that is the largest in South America and the fourth in the world, it went on to produce 400 million per week.
Tared said that they have a database that is generated with a detection and monitoring system with strategically distributed traps. This way they know where to release insects to maintain the balance between sterile flies and wild flies. "In the area under eradication, 100 to 150 sterile insects are released for every wild fly that is found," said Tared. The distribution of irradiated flies is made in two ways. One practice is by land, where insects are put in plastic containers and then released. On the other hand, the cold adult technique is used. The agronomist Tared commented: "The male flies are pre-cooled to be able to manipulate them and they are released in an area with a special device". In this way the packages fall to the ground and the flies are released.