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Sniffing out infestations

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Keith Newman11 June 2020

Researchers at Havelock North-based Plant & Food Research have been smelling apples to see if their odour can help improve surveillance programmes for early detection of insect infestation to enhance our horticulture biosecurity.

In a recent study, researchers collected odours released by apples deliberately infested with codling moth larvae, one of the main pests present in New Zealand apple orchards. Meantime, researchers in New Caledonia worked with the Queensland fruit fly, considered a major threat to our horticulture sector if it ever gets established here.

The results showed the pattern of odours could indeed be used to distinguish both pests, proving that electronic sensors for detection are feasible, and contributing to development of an odorant-based sensor in a project led by Plant & Food Research scientist, Dr Andrew Kralicek.

Current detection programmes are a costly but essential way to protect our biodiversity and horticulture industry and ensure our fruit exports and imports are pest free.

This has traditionally relied on visual inspection of fruit and vegetables that is not always reliable at detecting the early stages of infestation and the search has been on to find more trustworthy and lower-cost methods to supplement this.

Researchers believe electronic sensor devices that can detect characteristic odours could be one way forward.

Image: By James Niland – Flickr: Queensland Fruit Fly – Bactrocera tryoni

Keith Newman11 June 2020

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