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Honour for fruit-fly researcher
Weekend Post, Cairns  by Andreas Nicola
11 Jun 2022
General News - Page 28 - 397 words - ID 1651841945 - Photo: Yes - Type: News Item - Size: 396.00cm2


A FRUIT-FLY researcher from Cairns has been awarded for his groundbreaking research into disinfestation.

Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries principal entomologist Peter Leach won the Bayer Researcher of the Year Award at the 2022 Hort Connections conference on Wednesday.

The award acknowledges people with a track record of research.

Mr Leach said he had been working in the industry for 30 years to focus on the fruit-fly problem.

"If we want to export to another country we want to make sure our fruit is clean.

Disinfestation treatments are important to meet the requirements of our trading partners," he said.

"We've got 30 staff working across Cairns, Brisbane and Mareeba. It's a big team but it's a big problem, so we focus mainly on fruit flies.

Mr Leach said his work had helped gain access to the China, US, Korea and Japan markets.

"Basically all the pet species we have here they don't have overseas," he said.

"Some of these are only found in Australia. The only way we can export is we work on heat treatments, cold treatments and radiation." Mr Leach said one of the things he was most proud of in the last few years was the development of chemical-free treatments.

"One of the big things is irradiation. It is what we've focused on in the last five years because it's a non-chemical treatment using high energy X-rays." Another key treatment that Mr Leach is currently working on is host status testing.

"Sometimes if you pick a fruit when it's mature but still firm like an avocado, a fruit fly can't get into them," he said.

"If we can prove a fruit isn't a host you can export without the need to do heat treatments, you can export as is." Bayer head of customer marketing for the crop science division Tony Bay said he would like to congratulate Ms Leach on his contribution to the sector.

"The Researcher of the Year Award is a fantastic way to recognise the incredible work our researchers are undertaking in the horticulture sector, "he said.

"It is estimated fruit fly costs the Australian industry $300m annually so any work that supports the control of this invasive pest will deliver a material benefit for Australian fruit growers."

Caption Text:
Peter Leach, left, is presented his award by Bayer's head of customer marketing for the crop science division Tony May.

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