Tomato potato psyllid response enters T2M phase

October 5, 2017

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia (DPIRD) is continuing efforts to manage and contain tomato potato psyllid following the decision made by the National Management Group (NMG) earlier this year that it cannot be eradicated.

A comprehensive plan for transitioning to ongoing management has been approved by the NMG and is underway to limit and manage the ongoing risks and impacts of the tomato potato psyllid, and to confirm absence of the bacterium it can vector, Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum (CLso).

The revised Response Plan incorporating transition to management (T2M) activities has been developed in consultation with affected industry parties and includes supporting surveillance, market access activities, research and enterprise management planning.

The Australian Government, state and territory governments and affected industries are contributing to the cost of implementing the Response Plan under the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed.

The NMG made its decision that it is not feasible to eradicate tomato potato psyllid based on the recommendation provided by the Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests (CCEPP). This committee, comprising representatives from all federal, state and territory agriculture departments, affected industries and Plant Health Australia, provides recommendations to the NMG on a number of matters relating to an incursion, including on whether or not it is technically feasible to eradicate a pest.

Internationally, the psyllid has been associated with the spread of a serious plant disease known as ‘zebra chip’ in potatoes, caused by the Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum (CLso) bacterium. To date, CLso has not been detected in Australia. Surveillance will be conducted to confirm its absence.

The CCEPP will continue to meet and will oversee the implementation of the Response Plan, including consideration of the National Management Plan once it is developed in consultation with affected industry groups.

Advice to growers

Despite the decision that the tomato potato psyllid cannot be eradicated, everyone in Western Australia who grows potato, tomato, eggplant, capsicum, chilli, tamarillo, or sweet potato plants, should check their plants for the tomato potato psyllid. It does not matter if you are a commercial grower or only keep a few plants in your backyard.

It is important to control the tomato potato psyllid and prevent its spread to non-infested areas. It can spread through the movement of tomato, capsicum, eggplant, tamarillo and other Solanaceous plant material. It can also occur on other hosts including the Convolvulaceae plant family, which includes sweet potato. It can disperse through natural pathways such as flight and on the wind.

More information about the psyllid, including photos to help you identify it, are available on the DPIRD website, and on the PHA website.

As a general reminder, all growers need to practise sound farm biosecurity to prevent the entry, establishment and spread of pests and diseases. You can find out more information at farmbiosecurity.com.au.

Reporting

In Western Australia, if you think the psyllid may be present in your plants, you should still report this to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881 or you can use the MyPestGuide reporting App.

If you suspect you have seen the psyllid 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.

Movement restrictions

The Quarantine Area Notice currently remains in place for the Perth metropolitan area and surrounds to help prevent the spread of the tomato potato psyllid. For more information about the restricted area, including a map, see the DPIRD website at agric.wa.gov.au/tpp.

Since the detection of tomato potato psyllid, interstate movement controls for risk material have been in place and continue to apply. States and territories have proposed a consistent approach to movement restrictions that will apply to risk plants and plant material produced in Western Australia. This work is being facilitated by the Subcommittee on Domestic Quarantine and Market Access, by direction of the Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests.

If you are planning to move host material interstate you need to check with your state or territory department of agriculture or primary industries to see if any of these restrictions affect you. You should check the Australian Interstate Quarantine website before ordering or transporting plants or plant material from Western Australia (for example see WA ICAs 60, 61 and 62).

About tomato potato psyllid

The tomato potato psyllid (Bactericera cockerelli) is a tiny sap-sucking insect that attacks a range of plants in the Solanaceae family which includes potato, tomato, eggplant, capsicum, chilli and tamarillo. It also attacks sweet potato.

Adults resemble small winged cicadas and 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.

The tomato potato psyllid is a significant production pest in other countries where it is present, which includes the USA, Central America, New Zealand and Norfolk Island (which is an external Australian territory).

This is the first time the psyllid has been detected in Australia.

About Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum which is not found in Australia

Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum is a bacterium associated with ‘zebra chip’ disease in potatoes.

Zebra chip disease results in reduced crop yield and crop health, stem death, yellowing of leaf tissue, and misshapen tubers.

Symptoms of the Candidatus Liberibacter bacterium on potatoes, tomatoes, capsicum and chilli may look similar to other plant conditions, so growers are urged to be vigilant for the following symptoms:

  • In tomatoes, plants may become stunted or abnormally elongated. Leaf curling and yellowing occurs on the foliage. The fruit develops unevenly. Tomatoes may be misshapen or no fruit is produced, or there is an over-production of small, non-commercial grade fruit. Symptoms vary in severity between cultivars.
  • In capsicums and chillies, parts of the plant may die back. In foliage, leaves become misshapen, pale green or yellow with spiky tips and leaf stalks appear stunted. Flowers may drop prematurely. Symptoms vary in severity between cultivars.
  • Symptoms of zebra chip in potatoes include the plant having shortened internodes and aerial tubers may develop in the leaf nodes. Potato tops are likely to be smaller than normal. The foliage turns yellow and may have a burnt or purplish appearance.
  • Stems may die completely but regrowth from the base may occur. Tubers from affected plants may have small stalked tubers protruding from the main tuber, called ‘chaining’, and when cut may show internal browning of the vascular ring or brownish streaks along the medullary rays.

Neither the psyllid nor the bacterium pose a risk to human health.