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Russian Wheat Aphid found in Tasmania (January 2017)

Russian wheat aphid, a serious insect pest of wheat, barley and some other cereal crops has been detected near Cressy in Tasmania.

It was first detected in Australia on 13 May 2016 in South Australia and then spread rapidly to Victoria and New South Wales. The National Management Group determined it was not technically feasible to eradicate the aphid for several reasons, including its wide distribution soon after detection.  It most likely spread to Tasmania on northerly airflows.

Russian wheat aphid, Diuraphis noxia, is a small green aphid whose feeding produces strong plant symptoms due to the injection of saliva into the plant. These symptoms include rolled leaves, chlorotic spots, leaf streaking, trapped awns giving a hooked appearance and stunted crop.

The aphids spend their entire life on cereals and grasses. They survive for only a few days without feeding on suitable plants. The hosts that are most severely affected are barley and wheat. Other primary hosts include durum wheat, field broom grass, Elymus sp. and jointed goatgrass. Secondary hosts allow the aphid to survive but not reproduce. These include cereal rye, triticale and various grasses such as oats, tall wheat grass and Indian rice grass.

The presence of the aphid is not an export quarantine issue. Russian wheat aphids are best adapted to the dry climate of the mainland Australian wheat belt and are not well adapted to the moist Tasmanian climate.  Natural control by brown lacewings, ladybirds and hoverflies is likely to be strong in Tasmania.

What to do if you think you have found Russian wheat aphid

See the DPIPWE website for general information and a diagnostic image.

Plant Diagnostic Services in Biosecurity Tasmania will identify aphids suspected of being Russian wheat aphid free of charge. Specimens or images can be submitted to a DPIPWE entomologist by calling 1300 368 550.  Samples of plants bearing aphids should be secured in sealed double plastic bags along with some absorbent paper towel.

More information

A national team of grain pest experts is developing advice for managing Russian wheat aphid and identifying research priorities. Their information and general information with images of the aphid can be found at the Plant Health Australia website