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Keep an eye out for Tomato Potato Psyllid

Tomato Potato Psyllid

Tomato Potato Psyllid (Bactericera cockerelli or TPP) is a pest that all potato, tomato, eggplant, capsicum, chilli, tamarillo and sweet potato (Solanaceae and Convolvulaceae) growers across Australia should be familiar with. Also known as ‘jumping plant lice’ and established in some parts of Western Australia, all Australian growers should know the signs of TPP and regularly monitor their crops for this pest.

TPP is a tiny sap-sucking insect that can significantly impact production and is found in the USA, Central America and New Zealand. TPP was first detected in Western Australia (WA) in early 2017. Following a response, it was decided that it was not technically feasible to destroy the pest, which led to efforts to manage and contain TPP. This management phase has since ended.

TPP can also carry a serious exotic plant disease known as zebra chip, (Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum) however, to date there have been no detections of zebra chip in Australia.

Bactericera cockerelli. Image courtesy of Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

Due to the presence of TPP and in an effort to prevent the spread to non-infested areas, WA is subject to interstate movement controls on host plants as well as other plant material like nursery plants, leafy vegetables and cut flowers .This means if you are travelling from WA and intend to move plant material, you need to check the website of your destination state or territory to determine if the plant poses a TPP risk.

Commercial and hobby farmers are responsible for the monitoring and reporting of TPP. As a grower, you can assist by:

  • understanding the signs and symptoms of TPP
  • monitoring crops for TPP
  • report anything unusual to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

What to look for

Tomato potato psyllid (Bactericera cockerelli) adults are about 3mm long. The body is brownish and has white or yellowish markings on the thorax and a broad white band on the abdomen. Their wings are transparent and held vertically over their body.

When it’s present in a crop, the noticeable signs of the tomato potato psyllid include:

  • Insects jumping from the foliage when disturbed. Adult psyllids are sometimes called ‘jumping plant lice’ as they readily jump and fly when disturbed.
  • Severe wilting of plants occurs when there are large numbers of psyllids feeding.
  • Yellowing of leaf margins and upward curling of the leaves.
  • White sugar-like granules that are excreted by adults and nymphs. These granules coat the plant leaves and stems, and can lead to the development of sooty mould.
  • Honeydew and psyllid sugar make the plants sticky and plants often appear dirty.
  • Shortening of stem internodes occurs.
  • The death of the stem is similar to other potato and tomato disorders.

Looking for Tomato Potato Psyllid

Signs of TPP, white sugar-like granules that are excreted by adults and nymphs. Image courtesy of Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

Detecting TPP can be difficult. Australia has several native psyllids that are easily confused with TPP. The best method to detect TPP is via sticky traps, however these do not specifically lure TPP and can also catch other insects.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development Western Australia (DPIRDWA) have created a ‘How to trap Tomato potato psyllid on your property’ guide with great instructions of how to use sticky traps to catch TPP, and how to report your findings if you live in Western Australia.

Despite the difficulty of monitoring, regular surveillance will give you the best chance of identifying TPP before it becomes established.

If you suspect you have seen TPP outside of Western Australia, you need to contact your state or territory department of agriculture or primary industries. You can do this by phoning the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

Regular crop monitoring is a fundamental part of your farm’s biosecurity, and by taking a few simple steps, you can easily integrate TPP into your regular monitoring.

For more info and resources on TPP visit:

Signs of TPP, yellowing of leaf margins and upward curling of the leaves. Image courtesy of Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

Plant Health Australia for fact sheets, contingency plans and diagnostic protocols.

The AUSVEG TPP portal for the latest Australia wide information and updates about the response to TPP.

DPIRDWA for all Western Australian information on TPP.

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