ONE of the most destructive pests affecting potato crops can survive even the harshest of winter conditions according to new research out of the United States.
The Tomato-potato psyllid (TPP) proved its resilience when research conducted in the major potato growing regions of the United States by the Idaho, Washington State and Oregon Potato Commissions, identified living psyllids despite extreme winter conditions.
Luke Raggatt, speaking on behalf of Ausveg, the national peak industry body representing Australia’s more than 2000 potato growers, said the US findings showed how critical the research and development (R&D) work being conducted on the TPP within the Australian potato industry continued to be for growers and processors alike.
Among Australian research on the TPP is a project currently being conducted by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA), which is monitoring the distribution and prevalence of native psyllid populations in key potato growing areas across eastern Australia using sticky traps.
The use of the traps aims to provide the industry with an effective early warning system for incursions of the TPP, which is not currently found in Australia.
“It is critical that the Australian potato industry remains vigilant to ensure that it can swiftly and effectively identify a potential outbreak of the Tomato-potato psyllid,” Mr Raggatt said.
The TPP is a small flying insect that has caused catastrophic losses to the potato industries of North America and New Zealand.
Psyllids are a vector of the bacterium Liberibacter which commonly causes the Zebra Chip disease, rendering potatoes unsellable by causing striped bands in the flesh of affected tubers that blacken when cooked.
“While Australia is currently free from the psyllid, there is a real possibility of the pest entering our shores through a number of different means, including the transit of plant materials arriving from affected countries such as the US or New Zealand,” Mr Raggatt said.
R&D activities in Australia conducted in this area have included an investigation into the role of psyllids as vectors of disease; raising the awareness of Zebra Chip disease within the industry; developing rapid diagnostic tools for the detection of pathogens associated with Zebra Chip; and integrated pest management (IPM) strategies that would help to control the psyllid.
“In the last few years, the Australian potato industry has invested heavily in a range of R&D projects in an attempt to ensure that potato growers and processors are in a position to deal with this devastating pest and its associated disease, should it arrive here in the future,” Mr Raggatt said.