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Xsit helps South African citrus producers stay ahead of archenemy

CITRUSDAL, South Africa – While the Western Cape of South Africa has a climate that is ideal for growing citrus, it also supports one of the main pests that would present a barrier to shipments to the United States: the false codling moth.

To keep ahead of this pest and ensure a steady supply of fruit to U.S. supermarkets and importers, the Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum, based here, helps fund a facility called Xsit that performs research on FCM to help fcmFalse codling moth.suppress its proliferation.

Sampie Groenewald, general manager of Xsit, said that since starting the program in 2007, wild captures of the FCM have decreased to 0.85 per week from 13 per week — an indication that the population is being controlled.

Xsit operates by breeding the FCM and then sterilizing and releasing moths into the citrus orchards, where they will in turn mate with wild specimens, which will produce no offspring.

While this is an effective way to control the FCM population, Mr. Groenewald said that growers must continue to maintain proper orchard sanitation to keep FCM numbers to a minimum.

“Basically, a moth lays an egg on the fruit and the larvae penetrates it,” he said. “When the fruit falls from the tree, the larvae will pupate in the ground, so there is the need to clean up fallen fruit. Also, we must control host plants, for example oaks trees. We will sanitizes acorns when they fall from the tree.”

The Xsit program is funded by an assessment paid by members of South Africa’s Citrus Growers Association, typically 2,750 Rand per hectare. The money goes toward operating the facility and working on producing better moths that will be attractive and competitive in the wild.

While the citrus growers must bear the cost of the program, what they get in return – access to lucrative export markets such as the United States ­­– is worth the extra investment, according to Mr. Groenewald.