It is the first country in South America and the fifth in the world to put into operation the system for the release of sterile insects through the cold adult method.
By Florencia Lucero Heguy
In October 2020 began to be implemented, using Tecnam P2006 twin-engine aircraft, a new technology in the Alto Valle region, in the Argentine province of Mendoza, for the preventive control of Ceratitis capitata, known as Mediterranean Fly. In this way, Argentina becomes the first country in South America and the fifth in the world, together with Mexico, Guatemala, the United States and Croatia, to put into operation this system of release of the cold adult.
This technology began to be developed in Mendoza, where the technique was adapted and validated thanks to the public / private articulation of the National Service of Agri-Food Health and Quality (Senasa), the Institute of Agricultural Health and Quality of Mendoza (Iscamen) and the air services company Aerotec Argentina SA.
Later, the National Program for the Control and Eradication of Fruit Fly (Procem) in Patagonia, through the Fundación Barrera Zoofitosanitaria Patagónica (Funbapa), the associations of producers and provinces that participate in the implementation of the Program in the region, joined this initiative.
For more than 20 years, the Procem, led by Senasa, has used the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), which consists in the release of sterilized males of the Mediterranean fly, for preventive control in areas free of the plague and to minimize the risk of multiplication and survival of those fertile flies that could enter the protected area.
The cold adult method for SIT implies a leap in quality, since the released insect is more competitive and efficient, because it is subjected to less stress and has better conditions until its release (hydration and food). It also represents an advantage for the environment, since the use of paper bags for release is eliminated. The first experiences were developed by Iscamen and the technique was extended to the main pear, apple and cherry producing region of Patagonia.
For this, the National State made a contribution of 40 million pesos (about 500,000 USD) that allowed to reinforce the production of sterile flies and the implementation of this technology as a preventive method of control in free areas of Argentina.
How the releases will be made
The aerial release of sterile insects will be carried out on a total of 12,300 hectares of the Upper Valley. The planes will fly from the town of General Alvear, in Mendoza, where the Iscamen Cold Adult Packing Center is located, to Alto Valle with the sterile specimens numbed by the cooling process and placed in release boxes. These boxes allow an adjustable dosage to distribute the flies according to risk parameters defined according to the area.
The aircraft to be used were adapted by the firm Aerotec Argentina S.A., who also actively participated in the design of logistics to achieve the implementation of this new technology in the country.
Differences between the traditional SIT and that of the Cold Adult
Traditionally, the sterile insect release method consists of aerial or ground release of sterile flies packed as pupae (an immature stage of the insect) in paper bags.
Then, having completed their development, the adult flies emerge from the pupae placed inside the bags and begin to feed and mature. The bag also contains support paper to allow the insects to spread their wings at the time of emergence and syrupy paper to provide food for the emerged flies.
It should be noted that improvements were made to the Santa Rosa Iscamen Bioplant and adaptations to the aircraft, which allowed the cold adult release system to be gradually adopted. This method allows the release of hydrated, fed and sexually mature flies, optimizing the release times and also favoring the homogeneous distribution and densities to be applied per hectare, thus achieving a greater competitiveness of the sterile insect in the field and its survival.
The Fruit Fly is considered one of the most economically important pests for fruit and vegetable production in Argentina, due to the damage it causes to the fruit and the associated economic losses. For this reason, in 1994 the Procem was created to carry out its actions on the pests ceratitis capitata (Mediterranean Fly) and Anastrepha fraterculus (South American Fly). As a result of the implementation of this program, its eradication and the establishment of free areas in the center and south of Mendoza and throughout the Patagonian region were achieved, allowing the diversification of its fruit production and access to markets previously closed due to the presence of the pest.
In this sense, preventive control with the Cold Adult Technique allows maintaining the phytosanitary status recognized both nationally and internationally (United States, Chile and China), thus favoring the regional economy and exports from Argentina.