Our scientists are investigating the use of microwave technology as a post-harvest alternative to using chemicals to control fruit flies on our fruit and veggies.

The challenge

Managing fruit fly infestations

The total value of Australian horticulture production in 2012–13 was over $8 billion. More than 75 per cent of all our fruit and vegetable exports, valued at around $640 million in 2012–13, are susceptible to fruit fly.

Fruit fly infestations limit the export market access of vegetable crops, with the export potential of some edible-peel vegetables further limited by the removal of the pesticide dimethoate from some pre-and post harvest applications.

Our response

Zapping the pesky fruit fly

We are developing the use of microwave technology as a post-harvest alternative to using chemicals to control fruit flies on horticultural products.

A female scientist places a whole zucchini on the conveyor belt on the industrial microwave machine.

Dr Mala Gamage feeding the microwave unit with zucchini fruit, with fibre optic cables for online temperature measurement during treatment.

Using a prototype machine, zucchini and capsicum were tested at five microwave treatment levels. The zucchini and capsicum were infested with eggs, and first, second and third stage instar larvae of two species of fruit fly (Bactrocera cucumis and Bactrocera tryoni).

Three of the tested microwave treatment levels achieved one hundred percent mortality in all life stages of B. cucumis whereas only one of the microwave treatment levels applied to capsicum was effective in achieving ninety-eight percent or higher mortality in each life stage of B. tryoni.

The results

Optimisation of microwave treatment levels

The research team are continuing with further tests to optimise the microwave treatment levels for different types of produce as well as developing a new microwave system which is continuous, fast, economical and chemical-residue free.

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