THE tomato potato psyllid has been found on more than 70 properties across the metropolitan area, including some in the Yanchep and Gingin areas leading authorities to admit the pest cannot be eradicated.
At the same time the Department of Agriculture and Food WA entomologist Darryl Hardie said the department was looking to set traps on up to 500 properties in the metropolitan control zone where the psyllid was quite widespread.
Dr Hardie said while it was not technically feasible to eradicate the psyllid, trapping and testing would be increased to check for a bacteria that can be carried in the gut of the psyllid, and posed a threat to potato and other horticulture industries.
“Over the past few months, we have undertaken significant testing for the bacteria Candidatus liberibacter solanacearum with no detections to date,” he said.
“(But) it is important that we continue to check the psyllid for the bacteria.”
“Where it is present, the bacteria can cause problems in potato plants in particular, including zebra chip disease, where infected potatoes develop visible dark stripes after frying.
“Infected tubers can fail to produce plants – the bacterium is not harmful to human health.’’
Dr Hardie said the sticky traps would be set in gardens where the psyllid feeds on tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potato, capsicums, chilli, eggplant, goji berry or tamarillo.
He said the department would test captured psyllids for the bacteria.
Meanwhile, the department is working with industry on a management plan to combat tomato potato psyllid, following the national decision that it cannot be eradicated in Australia.
The department’s biosecurity and regulation executive director Kevin Chennell said the damaging insect pest was detected in Western Australia for the first time in February, prompting a national biosecurity response.
Dr Chennell said the department was working with industry and national partners on the management plan, which was focused on control options on farms, supply chain management and restoring access to interstate markets for affected produce.
“This work includes identifying key areas for further research to improve management outcomes and market access,’’ he said.
“Surveillance for Candidatus liberibacter solanacearum will also continue.”
Existing quarantine and movement controls in Western Australia will remain in place for now to minimise the risk of spreading the psyllid within the state, including treatment of commercial and non-commercial plants and produce prior to transport.
“Commercial and backyard growers are urged to continue to adhere to the movement controls, check their crops and control the psyllid where it is found.
“Any new detections in regional areas should be reported to the department’s pest and disease information service on 1800 084 881.”