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Tomato Potato Psyllid in NZ

Updated: 09/08/2009

Australian vegetable growers are being forewarned of a new plant pest that is causing havoc in New Zealand.

Many will recall how New Zealand growers were devastated by Currant Lettuce Aphid, some 2 years before it reached Australia in 2004.

The NZ horticulture industry have just launched a $1.5m three-year project to tackle the psyllid pest (Bactericera cockerelli).

Bactericera cockerelli - adult and nymph

Australian IPM researchers Paul Horne & Jessica Page are also working to develop effective controls for the Psyllid.

The psyllid has a long history of causing najor crop losses in Mexico (1994), USA (2000) and Canada (2000) and looks likely to severly affect the NZ potato, tomato and capsicum Industries.

The psyllid can also transmit a bacterial pathogen, Ca. Liberibacter solanacearum, that causes 'Zebra Chip' defects in potatoes.

The psyllid was found in New Zealand tomato crops in 2006 and has since spread into capsicums and potatoes.

NZ Psyllid sightings

The tomato psyllid can attack as many as 20 plant families, but prefers to feed on tomato, potato, capsicum and eggplant.

The adult psyllid resembles a small cicada about 3 mm long. The body is brown-green and has white or yellowish markings on the thorax and lines on the abdomen. The wings are transparent and held vertically over the body.

The nymphs appear scale-like and oval, initially yellowish green to orange with a pair of red eyes and three pairs of short legs. Older nymphs are greenish and fringed with hairs, and wing buds are visible.

Both adults and nymphs cause feeding injuries to plants. The nymphs inject a �salivary toxin� into the plant while feeding.

Like greenhouse whitefly adults, tomato-potato psyllid are strong fliers and will jump or fly when disturbed spreading rapidly on the wind or through a greenhouse crop.

The signs and symptoms of tomato-potato psyllid include:

  • Severe wilting of plants

  • Presence of honeydew

  • Yellowing of leaf margins with upward curling of the leaves,
    resulting from the injection of �salivary toxins� by nymphs (psyllid yellows)

  • Shortening of stem internodes, and retardation of new growth

  • Either no fruit production, or over-production of small, non-commercial grade fruit
  • Source : Gisborne Herald - 01 August, 2009

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