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 in appearance 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 held vertically over the body.
- Nymphs are 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 thread. They are usually laid on the lower surface of leaves or along the leaf stalk. Eggs are white when first laid then turn yellow to orange after a few hours.
How will TPP affect my plants?
When it's present in a crop, there are a number of noticeable signs:
- severe wilting of plants when there are large numbers of psyllids feeding
- yellowing of leaf margins and upward curling of the leaves occurs caused by the injection of salivary toxins
- honeydew and psyllid sugar that make the plants sticky and often appear dirty
- shortening of stem internodes
- death of the stem similar to other potato and tomato disorders
How do I inspect for TPP?
TPP adults and nymphs favour the lower parts of the plant. Most nymphs and adults are found on the underside of leaves in the middle or lower part of the plant, especially near the margins of the crop. The adults will fly a short distance and quickly settle again and behave like whitefly. Adult psyllids are sometimes called jumping plant lice as they readily jump from the foliage and fly when disturbed. If nymphs are present they will appear as small discs on the underside of the leaf. Colour ranges from light green to olive brown. Unlike whitefly nymphs, they will move slightly if disturbed by gentle prodding.
Entry restrictions are in place
Restrictions apply for the importation of TPP host material into Victoria.
To prevent the entry of TPP into Victoria, a legislative Order places restrictions and conditions on the importation of materials which may carry the pest into Victoria. The Order is available on the Victorian Government Gazette website.
TPP host material includes:
- plant or plant products belonging to the family Convolvulaceae or the family Solanaceae. This includes sweet potato, capsicums, tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes; and
- any agricultural equipment or packages used in the cultivation, processing, packaging or transport of these plant or plant products.
Victorian entry conditions can be found at Industry Notices.
How can I report a suspect detection of TPP?
If you suspect that you have found TPP: