COMMERCIAL vegetable producers and backyard growers in Yanchep and the Shire of Gingin are being urged to check for signs of an exotic plant pest, which attacks plants such as potato, tomato, eggplant, capsicum, chilli, tamarillo and sweet potato.
The Department of Agriculture and Food WA said DNA barcoding results in the last week had confirmed the presence of tomato potato psyllid in WA.
Department Acting Chief Plant Protection Officer Sonya Broughton said this was the first time the psyllid had been detected in Australia.
“A pest has been detected in a capsicum crop in a commercial property north of Perth, backyard tomatoes and eggplants in Belmont and backyard tomatoes at two properties in Mount Hawthorn and in chillies at a property in Palmyra,” she said.
“The department has quarantined the impacted properties to restrict the movement of vegetable and plant material off these properties.
Dr Broughton said the insect pest was a significant production pest in other countries, including the USA, Central America and New Zealand.
Dr Broughton said department officers were surveying properties within the wider metropolitan area to determine the location of the pest, which attacks a range of plants in the Solanaceae family .
Commercial vegetable producers and backyard growers are urged to check for signs of the psyllid and report any unusual detections to the department’s MyPestGuide Reporter app.
“Tomato potato psyllid is a tiny sap-sucking insect,” she said.
“Adult psyllids resemble small winged aphids in appearance 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.
“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.
“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 tomato potato psyllid can carry the bacterium candidatus liberibacter solanacearum, which causes the zebra chip disease in potato.
“The bacterium has not been found in any samples taken to date.’’
VegetablesWA chief executive officer John Shannon said the horticulture industry was critically important to the state’s economy.
“We have access to international expertise which will help us to best respond to this new pest and we will be work closely with the department to share this expertise with growers,” he said.