Five things you need to know about tomato-potato psyllids

1. They can cause the dreaded zebra chip disease

The tomato-potato psyllid is responsible for carrying and spreading the pathogen Candidatus Liberibacter, which causes Zebra chip disease in potatoes. Zebra chip disease produces dark brown stripes in potato tubers and renders them unusable.

2. They are a major biosecurity threat 

The impact of the tomato-potato psyllid could be potentially devastating to the Australian potato industry and could result in millions of dollars of losses annually through increased pest control and monitoring, reduced yields and disruption to commodity export markets. Since it was found in New Zealand in 2006 it is estimated it has cost the industry more than $200 million.

3. They can hitch a ride on airflows between continents 

Native to North and Central America, TPP was accidentally introduced into New Zealand probably through the illegal importation of infested plant material. It is feared that the psyllid could also enter mainland Australia the same way or be carried by strong easterly winds which can occasionally blow from New Zealand.

4. They were recently detected on Norfolk Island

In 2014 the psyllid and the pathogen were found on Norfolk Island, about half-way between the east coast of Australia and New Zealand. How TPP got to such an isolated location is unknown, but highlights the need to remain vigilant for its possible arrival on mainland Australia, particularly in Tasmania where it could arrive first if blown across the Tasman Sea from New Zealand.

5. Ongoing monitoring in Australia is essential 

In 2011 TIA set up a network of yellow sticky traps in the major potato growing regions of eastern Australia, to act as an early warning system to detect incursions of the tomato-potato psyllid. The latest results show Australia is still free of the pest. Read more about TIA's monitoring project.

Published on: 16 Nov 2015 11:14am