25 Oct 2013

Potato industry winning psyllid war

6:59 am on 25 October 2013

Research is helping the potato industry to win the war against the insect pest it has been battling for seven years.

The tomato-potato psyllid, which surfaced in 2006, spreads a bacterium which stunts plant growth and causes a disease in potato tubers called zebra chip.

The Plant and Food Research Institute has received more Government funding to continue work on improving control measures for the psyllid and developing more pest resistant potatoes.

Potatoes New Zealand chief executive Champak Mehta says they have already been able to lower the economic impact of the pest and have reduced chemical use by taking advantage of biological control measures, such as using natural predators of the psyllid.

He says it is now understood that in certain parts of the country, particularly Pukekohe, it is not necessary to spray for psyllid until December because of the psyllid's life cycle.

Mr Mehta says natural predators keep the psyllid under control and spraying is of no benefit up until December when the natural predators are overwhelmed by the psyllid levels and it is then necessary to put in place a traditional pest control regime.

He says the potato industry is aiming not just to control the psyllid pest but to increase production.