Tomato-potato psyllid

Alert

Have you seen Tomato-potato psyllid?

Be on the lookout and report it.

Under Queensland legislation if you suspect the presence of Tomato-potato psyllid, you must report it to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 or contact the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

Email photos or symptoms of psyllids to plantpestdiagnostics@daf.qld.gov.au.

Early detection and reporting are key elements in controlling Tomato-potato psyllid.

The tomato-potato psyllid is an important economic pest of vegetable crops. It was detected in Western Australia in 2017. It has not been found in Queensland.

Tomato-potato psyllids affect a number of crops including tomato, potato, capsicum, chilli, eggplant and sweet potato, and feed by sucking the sap of their host plant, which results in poor growth and productivity.

Overseas, the psyllids can also spread a serious plant disease known as 'zebra chip' in potato, caused by the Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum (CLso) bacterium. This bacterium is not present in Australia, and is not harmful to humans.

Cause

The tomato-potato psyllid is a tiny insect also known as Bactericera cockerelli or TPP.

Other names

  • Potato psyllid
  • Tomato psyllid
  • Psyllid

Description

Psyllids have 3 life stages.

Adults

  • Tiny cicada-like insects about 2–3mm in length that jump or fly when disturbed.
  • When the adults first emerge, they are light yellow to yellowish green in colour.
  • After several days, the body becomes brownish and has white or yellowish markings on the back of the head and thorax, and a distinctive white band on the abdomen.
  • The wings are transparent and are held vertically over the body.

Nymphs

  • 1–2mm in length and have a 'scale' like appearance.
  • Young nymphs are orange, changing to pale green to brown, and to green as they age.
  • Older nymphs have a fringed edge to the body and red eye-spots.
  • Found mainly on the underside of leaves where they feed.

Eggs

  • Smaller than 1mm in size and are laid on a small stalk attached to the leaf or stem.
  • The eggs are oval or oblong and become pale yellow to orange as they mature.

Plant stage and plant parts affected

Host plants at any age or stage of development can be infested. While the insect feeds mostly on leaves and stems, the whole plant can be affected.

Plant damage

In host plants infestation can cause:

  • white sugar-like granules excreted by psyllid adults and nymphs to coat leaves and stems, resulting in the growth of sooty mould
  • leaves to turn yellow or have yellow or purpling margins
  • an upright appearance of new leaves
  • cupped shaped foliage
  • dwarfing and stunting of growing tips
  • severe wilting caused by high numbers of psyllids feeding
  • poor fruit set and development of poor quality, misshapen fruit or potato tubers
  • plant death when severely infested.

Tomato-potato psyllid can also carry the bacterial pathogen Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum, which causes the disease 'zebra chip' in potatoes. Symptoms of zebra chip include leaf rolling, purpling and discolouration of tubers. This disease is not present in Australia

Distribution

Native to North America, tomato-potato psyllid is also found in central America. It was detected in New Zealand in 2006 and has established and spread there.

Tomato-potato psyllid was detected in Western Australia in 2017. A containment strategy that includes quarantine and movement restrictions is in place to prevent pest spread.

Tomato-potato psyllid has not been found in Queensland, or the other states and territories of Australia.

Hosts

Tomato, potato, capsicum, chilli, eggplant and sweet potato. Tomato potato psyllids can also feed on a wide range of other vegetable crops from beans to sweet corn.

Life cycle

  • Adult females lay single eggs on a stalk, usually on the underside of leaves, the leaf edge or on stems, though sometimes eggs can be laid all over a host plant.
  • Females may lay 300–500 eggs during their life.
  • Eggs hatch after 3-7 days into wingless nymphs.
  • The nymphs prefer sheltered places such as under leaves. Although they have legs, the nymphs spend most of their time keeping still and feeding on the plant sap.
  • The nymphs moult 4 times, gradually getting bigger with each moult as they transition through the 5 nymphal stages (instars).
  • From the fifth instar stage, the nymph changes into a winged adult.
  • There is no pupal stage.
  • Adults are reported to live 1–2 months with females reported to live 2–3 times longer than males.
  • The adults feed on the sap in leaves.
  • Tomato-potato psyllid can breed throughout the year, with the time taken to complete one life cycle dependant on factors such as temperature and host species.

Impacts

Queensland grows one-third of Australia's horticultural produce. Valued at more than $2.8 billion per year, the industry employs around 25,000 people (Source: Queensland Farmers Federation).

Tomato-potato psyllid poses a significant threat to Queensland's horticultural industries. Damage caused by the psyllid affects plant health resulting in the development of poor quality, misshapen fruit and tubers.

The economic impact of the psyllid would be significantly increased if the plant disease known as 'zebra chip' in potato, caused by the Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum (CLso) bacterium, was also present.

If this pest was to be detected in Queensland, growers would be affected as the presence of tomato-potato psyllid may disrupt domestic and export market access and require costly additional control measures.

Home gardeners would also be affected.

Monitoring and action

Regularly check host plants for the presence of psyllids.

Examine plants for:

  • white granules and sooty mould coating leaves and stems
  • yellowing or purpling of leaves
  • leaf curling or cupping, dwarfing and stunting
  • wilt.

Look at the underside of leaves for nymphs and look for insects that jump between plants when disturbed.

If you detect or suspect the presence of tomato-potato psyllid, you must report it to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 or contact the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881. Email photos and symptoms of psyllids to plantpestdiagnostics@daf.qld.gov.au.

Control

A control and containment program is in place in Western Australia to prevent the psyllid from spreading.

Other actions being taken include:

Legal requirements

Tomato-potato psyllid is prohibited matter under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Report suspected tomato-potato psyllid to Biosecurity Queensland immediately on 13 25 23 or contact the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

If you think you have found the psyllid, you must take all reasonable and practical steps under your control to minimise any associated risks. This is called a general biosecurity obligation (GBO).

Movement restrictions are in place to prevent the introduction of tomato-potato psyllid to Queensland.

Tomato-potato psyllid carriers can be plants, fruit and vegetables, soil and equipment or appliances. For specific information describing tomato-potato psyllid carriers, and the movement restrictions and conditions that must be met to move the carriers into Queensland, go to the Queensland Biosecurity Manual (PDF, 1.8MB).

Your compliance with these regulations will help protect Queensland's valuable horticultural industries.

Further information