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Tomato potato psyllid detection in Western Australia - what it means for Tasmania (February 2017)

Tomato potato psyllid (Bactericera cockerelli) was detected in Western Australia at several properties near Perth, in early February 2017.  This is the first detection of this pest in Australia. The pest has not been detected in Tasmania

Tomato Potato Psyllid (TPP) is a sap-sucking insect that feeds on many plants in the Solanaceae family which includes potato, tomato, capsicum, eggplant and tamarillo and some in the Convolvulaceae family such as sweet potato.

The tomato potato psyllid causes injury to plants directly by its feeding. It can also transmit a bacterial disease known as zebra chip which poses an additional threat to important horticultural crops, particularly potatoes. Damage to crops is most severe when the insect vector and bacteria coincide.  The bacterium has not been detected in Western Australia.

The noticeable signs of the tomato potato psyllid include insects jumping from the foliage when disturbed, severe wilting of plants occurs when there are large numbers of psyllids feeding, yellowing of leaf margins and upward curling of the leaves, and honeydew and psyllid sugar make the plants sticky and they often appear dirty.

Actions are being taken nationally in response to this detection and to minimise the risk of movement of the pest to other parts of Australia.

Implications for Tasmania

If this pest entered Tasmania it would have greatest significance for growers of potato, tomato, capsicum, eggplant and related crops both indoors and outdoors. It also has implications for the nursery industry.

As part of a Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture project, a network of yellow sticky traps has operated in Tasmanian potato crops in recent years to obtain early warning should this pest enter Tasmania. 

Commercial producers and backyard growers are asked to check their crops for signs of the psyllid. Biosecurity Tasmania’s Plant Diagnostic Services can identify suspect material free of charge. If you think the tomato potato psyllid may be present in your crop or backyard plants, you need to report this to Biosecurity Tasmania by phoning the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

Actions taken by Biosecurity Tasmania thus far

Importation pathways for risk produce from Western Australia have been investigated by Biosecurity Tasmania. With some exceptions, Tasmania does not receive risk produce directly from Western Australia, so reducing risk of movement into Tasmania.  Where produce may enter, it is via South Australia or Victoria first and must meet those State’s emergency conditions thus buffering the risk for Tasmania.  

Tasmania has had treatment requirements on a range of risk material should any pathway exist, hence mitigating risk.  Additional requirements are not deemed necessary at this time.

The Chief Plant Health Manager (Tasmania) has declared TPP a List A Pest under the Plant Quarantine Act 1997, enabling regulatory action to be taken if needed.  He has also issued an Area Freedom certificate for TPP to support continued access. for Tasmanian produce being exported interstate.  An industry information forum will be organised by Biosecurity Tasmania in the near future as additional information comes to hand.

As a general reminder, all growers need to practise sound farm biosecurity to prevent the entry, establishment and spread of pests and diseases. Find out more at the Farm Biosecurity website

For further information and images of the pest - visit the Plant Health Australia website.