Tomato potato psyllid
The tomato potato psyllid (TPP), Bactericera cockerelli, is a tiny sap-sucking, winged insect that originates from North America and was introduced into New Zealand in 2006. It is one of the most destructive potato pests in the western hemisphere.
TPP was detected in Australia for the first time in February 2017, in metropolitan Perth, Western Australia.
TPP attacks a range of plants including potato, tomato, eggplant, capsicum, chilli, tamarillo, and sweet potato. It causes yellowing of the leaves, misshapen fruit and reduces crop yield. The psyllid has historically been associated with 'psyllid yellows' disease of potato and tomato. It can also transmit the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum (CLso) which causes the zebra chip disease in potatoes, named after the dark stripes that appear on chips made from infected potatoes.
What does TPP look like?
TPPs go through three stages of development – adult, egg and nymph. Adults and nymphs of TPP cause injury to plants by feeding with sucking mouth parts.
- Adult psyllids resemble small winged aphids 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. Wings are transparent and rest roof-like over the body.
- Nymphs are up to 2mm long, oval shaped, flattened and scale-like in appearance. Young nymphs are yellowish green to orange with a pair of red eyes and three pairs of short legs. Older nymphs are greenish and fringed with hairs and have visible wing buds.
- Psyllid eggs are less than 1mm long and are attached to the plant by a short vertical stalk. They are usually laid on the lower surface of leaves or as a halo around the leaf edge. Eggs are white when first laid then turn yellow to orange after a few hours.
Image shows the TPP Adult (image courtesy of Pia Scanlon, Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia)
Why is TPP a threat?
TPP is a significant production pest in other countries where it is present, including the USA, Central America and New Zealand.
The psyllid is a tiny sap-sucking insect with three stages of development – egg, nymph and adult. Adults and nymphs cause injury to plants with their sucking mouth parts when feeding, leading to loss of plant vigour and yield.
TPP can carry the bacterium Candidates Liberibacter solanacearum (CLso), which is associated with 'zebra chip' disease in potato.
What is CLso or 'Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum'?
CLso Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum is a bacterium that causes 'zebra chip' disease in potato. TPP are known to transmit the bacterium.
There have been no confirmed reports of CLso in Australia.
What crops does TPP affect?
TPP attacks plants belonging to the Solanaceae family, which includes capsicums, tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, tamarillos and chillies.
TPP can also affect plants from the Convolvulaceaefamily, which includes sweet potato, and the Lamiacease family which includes spearmint and cat nip.
The weeds nightshade, groundcherry, boxthorn, matrimony vine and field bindweed are also hosts of the pest.
Where did TPP come from?
TPP has been detected for the first time in Western Australia. The origin is unknown.
TPP is present in other countries including USA, Central America and New Zealand. It can spread through the movement of host plant material. It can also disperse through natural pathways such as flight, wind and human-assisted movement (movement of plant material).
How do I know if my plants have TPP?
If you grow a crop that is a host for TPP, look for insect life stages on the underside of leaves. Signs of tomato potato psyllid include:
- insects jumping from the foliage when disturbed
- severe wilting of plants caused by large numbers of psyllids feeding
- yellowing of leaf margins and upward curling of the leaves
- white sugar-like granules (excreted by adults and nymphs) that coat the plant leaves and stems and can lead to the development of sooty mould
- ants, which may indicate the presence of the white sugar-like granules
- death of the stem similar to other potato and tomato disorders.
If you suspect TPP is present in your crop, please report directly to the department. Reporting TPP will help protect other growers and the Victorian industry.
TPP nymphs (image courtesy of Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia)
TPP adults (image courtesy of Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia)
Honeydew and psyllid sugar make the plants sticky and they often appear dirty (image courtesy of the New Zealand Arthropod Factsheet Series Number 60)
Agriculture Victoria biosecurity officers demonstrate how to lay a sticky trap (image courtesy of Agriculture Victoria)
How do I report TPP?
If you suspect you have seen a psyllid, we can connect you to an expert in exotic pests and diseases: email email@example.com
For advice on moving plant products, contact your local Plant Standards Officer on 136 186 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Growers are reminded that it is an offence under the Plant Biosecurity Act 2010 not to report a suspect case of tomato potato psyllid or bacterium.
Do I need to set up my own monitoring and surveillance for TPP?
Growers are urged to check their plants for TPP.
Surveillance of plants and crops can be undertaken by checking for signs of TPP on host plants and laying yellow sticky traps.
Yellow sticky traps can be purchased from most hardware or gardening stores.
Place yellow sticky traps on wires or stakes just above the crop canopy within five metres of the crop edges. If the crop has already been harvested, place the sticky trap in vegetation surrounding the field.
Collect the sticky traps after one week and if you have concerns about the pest insects on your sticky trap then please contact the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.
For further information contact: Lavinia Zirnsak (03) 9217 4490 or Dolf De Boer (03) 9032 7324.
Will my property be inspected?
Agriculture Services and Biosecurity Operations (ASBO) biosecurity officers will survey 220 crops across Victoria to determine whether Victoria remains free of TPP.
Biosecurity officers will contact the property owners before their visit. They will lay sticky traps, then return after a few days to replace the sticky traps and submit the collected traps for testing by the department.
If TPP is found, the department will work with individual property owners on a treatment process which is appropriate to their business to minimise the impact of this pest for the rest of Victoria.
What has been done so far to combat TPP?
TPP is an emergency plant pest and Agriculture Victoria is working as a priority with industry to ensure it does not move into Victoria. ASBO is assessing properties across Victoria and will be installing traps to identify if TPP is present.
Agriculture Victoria has imposed restrictions on the importation of host material from any state or territory.
For more information
To report suspected TPP, email email@example.com.
For more information about the proposed movement restrictions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the Industry Notices on the Agriculture Victoria website.