Brazil’s Biofactory to Produce Close to 1 Billion Sterile Flies a Month

Fruit farmers of Brazil and of the world have been granted assistance in fighting the worst pests that affect their crops: fruit flies, scientific name Ceratitis Capitata.

In the month of June, the Biofábrica Moscamed Brasil factory will be officially inaugurated, in the city of Juazeiro, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia.

The biofactory, whose target is to produce 200 million sterile male flies per week, is born with the perspective of being an exporter. According to agronomist Antonio Nascimento, the Moscamed Brasil technical and scientific consultant, Spain and South Africa are potential markets for future exports of natural pest control.

The researcher explains that research took ten years. Work by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), universities and research institutes was necessary to reach the biofactory.

"This is truly interdisciplinary and inter-institutional team work," he said. The technology for production of sterile fruit flies is already used in other countries, but not in Brazil, the third largest world producer of fruit. The biofactory is the first of its kind.

According to him, the sterile insect technique will reduce the use of pesticides in Brazilian fruit farming and will represent a positive impact to the environment.

"On the other hand, this technology will contribute to the production of more healthy fruit, as well as increasing the Brazilian competitiveness on the foreign fruit market, marked by greater and greater demands with regard to food safety," pointed out Nascimento.

In practice, according to the researcher, sterilization of the male fruit flies is promoted by exposing them to gamma rays. The insect becomes sterile but does not lose its biologic capacity. The sterile males released in orchards mate with wild females.

The females will then produce unfertile eggs, resulting in a progressive reduction of pest populations. "Each female only accepts to copulate once in its life. This biological detail makes the technique safe and very efficient," he guarantees.

The first Brazilian states to benefit from the sterile insect technique will be the northeastern states of Bahia, Pernambuco, Ceará and Rio Grande do Norte. In the medium and long run, other states in the federation will be benefited by technology.

"We must make use of this technology in a more efficient manner. For this purpose, a good database of conditions in the interior of each region of the country is fundamental for its success," warns the researcher.

There is also export potential. In some countries, according to the researcher, sterile insect technology is used both in the fight against fruit flies and in the control of other pests, like the codling moth, botflies, which attack cattle, and tsetse flies, better know as sleeping sickness flies.

In the medium term, the project forecasts the production of parasitoids for biological control of fruit flies and other pests. In this first phase, mango, grape and papaya farms will be the ones to benefit, but the project, according to Antonio Nascimento, will benefit fruit farming as a whole, as the technology covers broad areas, not being restricted to a specific property or farm.

The enterprise also counts on the support of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, the Ministry of Science and Technology, through the Studies and Projects Funding Body (Finep), of the Ministry of National Integration and of the Government of the state of Bahia.

Biofábrica Moscamed
www.moscamed.org.br

Anba – www.anba.com.br

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