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IAEA Supports the Protection and Production of Ecuador’s Most Valuable Fruits


Experts package sterile flies into paper bags for the pilot releases. (Photo: Maria Cristina Sosa/AGROCALIDAD)

Ecuador is the second largest exporter of avocados, bananas, mangos and other tropical fruits in Latin America and the Caribbean. In recent years, however, Ecuador’s Sierra region has been affected by the growing preponderance of Anastrepha fruit flies, which affect agricultural productivity by puncturing the membrane of fruits to lay eggs. When the larvae hatch the fruit is destroyed and the investments made by farmers are lost. Together with the IAEA, and in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Ecuador is working to resolve the threat posed by fruit flies by deploying the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), as part of a national technical cooperation (TC) project[1] which benefits from the technical support of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture.

Fruit flies not only have a direct impact on fruit production, they also affect domestic and international trade by preventing Ecuador’s fruit products from reaching foreign markets. Quarantine and importation restrictions are in place for several species of flies, many of which are native to the Sierra region.

Fruit production and fruit exports are an important priority for Ecuador and are highlighted in numerous programmes for national development. The IAEA’s technical cooperation programme has been working hand-in-hand with Ecuador’s National Secretary of Planning and Development (SEMPPLADES), since 2016, on the development and implementation of the sterile insect technique. This is a method of pest control that reduces the birth rate of fruit flies by sterilizing males with ionizing radiation, and subsequently releasing them into the environment. The sterile males then mate with wild females, but there are no offspring and the population declines.

As part of the TC project, the Agriculture Quality Assurance Agency (AGROCALIDAD) of Ecuador’s Ministry of Agriculture received the first load of 500,000 sterile medfly pupae from the IAEA on November 8, 2018 and weekly shipments are expected for the next 24 to 36 months. During this pilot operation, the sterile flies were packed in paper bags and were released on the ground across a grid of evenly-distributed release spots. The first group of adult flies were released on the 14th of November in the provinces of Pichincha, Imbabura and Tungurahua, and releases will continue for the next 36 months. The impact of the SIT efforts will be measured by setting up a trapping grid in the three targeted provinces for pest population monitoring, and by conducting fruit sampling in order to assess infestation levels.

Following the implementation of the project, Ecuador’s fruit fly population is expected to fall continuously. At the same time, the country’s phytosanitary surveillance system will be strengthened by including management strategies for all extant fruit fly species. Additionally, as a mechanism to manage phytosanitary risk, the project will build national capacities to establish and maintain ‘fruit fly free’ areas, in line with international standards.


[1] ECU5029, ‘Improving Integrated Fruit Fly Management in Fruit and Vegetable Production Areas’


Last update: 11 Dec 2020

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