Farm Management

Alert: New plant pest found in Perth

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Tomato potato psyllid nymph and adults on a leaf. Nymph cases also pictured. Photo: Pia Scanlon, DAFWA Entomology 2017

The Department of Agriculture and Food in WA has started surveillance in commercial crops and backyard gardens in the Perth area, looking for signs of a new vegetable pest.

Department Acting Chief Plant Protection Officer Sonya Broughton said officers were working with the horticulture industry to respond to the exotic plant pest, tomato potato psyllid (Bactericera cockerelli).

Residential and commercial properties, a commercial nursery and retail outlets are now confirmed to have the pest.

This is the first time the psyllid has been detected in Australia, and so far, it has not been found outside of the Perth metropolitan area.

“The department has quarantined the affected properties and restricted the movement of plant material, equipment and machinery off these properties,” said Dr Broughton.

The infested properties will also be treated to eliminate the pest.

Tomato potato psyllid attacks a range of plants in the Solanaceae family including potato, tomato, eggplant, capsicum, chili and tamarillo, along with sweet potato.

“Tomato potato psyllid is a tiny sap-sucking insect. Adult psyllids resemble small winged aphids in appearance and are about 3mm long,” Dr Broughton said.

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Tomato potato psyllid next to a five cent piece. Photo: Pia Scanlon, DAFWA Entomology 2017

“The body is brownish and has white or yellowish markings on the thorax and a broad white band on the abdomen. Its wings are transparent and held vertically over the body.

“Symptoms of damage on plants can include stunting, yellowing and purpling of leaves, distorted leaf growth and stem death. (More information about the pest)

“Growers who suspect the pest is on their property are advised not to spray for the pest or disturb plants until their crops have been surveyed and an appropriate treatment has been identified.”

The insect can carry the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum, which causes the disease ‘zebra chip’ in potatoes.

The bacterium has not been found in any samples taken to date.

Commercial vegetable producers and backyard growers are urged to check for signs of the psyllid and report anything unusual to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline 1800 084 881.

People in WA can also lodge a report via the department website or by contacting the department’s Pest and Disease Information Service info@agric.wa.gov.au, or use the MyPestGuide Reporter app.

For more information, check out FarmBiosecurity.

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