2 May 2012

Psyllid slashes tamarillo production

1:43 pm on 2 May 2012

An insect which is wreaking havoc on tomato and potato crops is also taking a toll on tamarillo production.

The tomato-potato psyllid, which has been in New Zealand since 2006, spreads a bacterium which causes zebra chip disease.

The Tamarillo Growers Association says since its arrival the annual crop has been reduced by nearly two-thirds to 260 tonnes last year.

Its manager, Robin Nitschke, who is currently harvesting his own crop in Whangarei, says the psyllid has had a significant impact on the industry.

He says there were 120 registered growers in 2007 compared with 40 now.

"It kills the tree so we've got to replant and three years later we've got a crop. In that three years the psyllid has another chance to have a crack at that young plant before it's actually producing anything."

He says unlike potatoes and tomatoes, which are annuals and have an instant crop after re-planting, the pest has been particularly destructive to the tamarillo industry for this reason.

Mr Nitschke says the industry is looking to reduce its reliance on chemical treatments to control the psyllid.

He said there was an initial surge in the use of chemicals as a stop-gap measure but the industry hopes biological controls will soon be available as part of more sustainable programme.

The main tamarillo growing regions are Bay of Plenty, Northland, Auckland and Coastal Taranaki.