There is a reason why dragon fruit is considered a rich and famous fruit in Viet Nam: it is exported to 40 countries and return from dragon fruit production is several times higher than from rice production.
In Binh Thuan province, around 29 500 hectares are dedicated to growing the fruit, with a production of nearly 600 000 tonnes last year, and its Department of Agriculture and Rural Development plans to increase that by 2020. However, this plan may be hindered by formidable pests capable of decimating dragon fruit crops: fruit flies.
“Dragon fruit is a favourite crop in Viet Nam because farmers are aware of its potential to earn them a steady income,” said Hien Thanh Thi Nguyen, Deputy Head of the Entomology Division at Viet Nam’s Plant Protection Research Institute. “Unlike many other fruits that are seasonal, dragon fruit can be cultivated all year round and each crop season lasts only two and a half months, so it has great economic importance. The fruit is very important for the province’s economy, but the fruit flies are a big problem for this area.”
Therefore, the Plant Protection Research Institute, along with staff from the Agriculture and Rural Development Department of Binh Thuan province, teamed up with the IAEA and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in a pilot project to test the effectiveness of implementing an integrated pest management approach, including a form of insect pest control known as the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT). Using this technique, fruit flies are mass-produced and then sterilized using ionizing radiation before being released into the environment to mate with wild flies, producing no offspring.