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Zeroing in on Opuntia

News release
16 November 2021

Landholders, primary producers, local councils and Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) have all been working hard to reign in the fruit fly outbreak in our region.

Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board District Manager Hannah Spronk said many people may not know that the Opuntioid cacti, a group of declared pest plant species commonly referred to as prickly pear are a fruit fly host.

“And while people may not want to get to close to the cactus, fruit flies are happy to use their fruit as a home,” she said.

“We encourage everyone to tackle the Opuntia cactus a noxious weed from a fruit fly perspective.

“While on the lookout for your new season summer fruit, trees and veggie patches, make sure you check any plants you may have on your property or the adjacent roadside for fruit fly.

“Just like the COVID-19 virus, we can all do our bit to control this pest, and the Riverland District team can help you.

“We have been successfully breeding cochineal, which is the biological control for Opuntia cactiat Riverland nursery sites for a while now,” Ms Spronk said.

When cochineal infected cactus pads are attached to healthy cactus plants the bio-control cochineal slowly eats away the plant, finally killing it.

“There are also other control methods such as stem injectors and spray trailers used for cactus control work that landholders can borrow.

“Give us a call and ask a District Officer to check out what type of cactus you have on your property - some look very similar, and flowers, which are opening now, are the most definitive way of identifying the different species.

There is also an Opuntia ficus-indica species that is not a declared weed in SA. It’s a spineless variety of cactus, and some people grow these for their fruit.

The same rules apply, though. If you aren’t using the fruit, it needs to be disposed of appropriately and limit movement. Follow PIRSA directions as these fruit also are a host for fruit fly.

If you would like more information on identifying or controlling Opuntia on your property, please contact the Riverland District Team at the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board, Berri, on phone: 8580 1800.

This project is supported by the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board through funding from the landscape levies.

Zeroing in on Opuntia
Opuntia stricta with fruit