As Agriculture Director at McCain Foods Australia/New Zealand, John Jackson has witnessed the destruction of the tomato potato psyllid (TPP) and the bacterium it vectors – Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum (CLso), which causes zebra chip disease – in New Zealand’s potato industry for 14 years.

McCain has potato processing plants in Smithton, Tasmania and Ballarat, Victoria, as well as Timaru on the South Island of New Zealand, which processes potatoes grown in the Canterbury region.

When the psyllid arrived in Canterbury in 2006, John and his colleagues at McCain had seen the devastation it had already caused in the upper North Island and were actively seeking advice, ideas or information to control TPP in their potato crops.

Enter Paul Horne from IPM Technologies, who travelled from Australia to New Zealand as part of the project Control of Potato Psyllid with an IPM Strategy (PT09004), a strategic levy investment under the Hort Innovation Fresh Potato and Potato Processing Funds.

Dr Horne’s approach of using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as a strategy to combat TPP was communicated to growers at field days as well as Plant & Food Research New Zealand, which collaborated with IPM Technologies on the project.

IPM is an ecosystem-based approach that focuses on prevention or suppression of pests through a combination of methods such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, use of resistant crop varieties and targeted chemistry.

John says TPP is extremely difficult to control because of its rapid growth stages – for instance, nymphs and adults can be present in a crop at the same time. Given this, the introduction of beneficial insects can help curb the TPP population in a crop.

“You’re really looking at what you’ve got in your arsenal to try and control the psyllids,” he says.

“IPM just seemed to make a lot of sense: Why would you want to try and kill all the beneficial insects when they are the workers that are going to do your job for you? “We were looking at it from that point of view. Along with trying to control the psyllid, we also use the beneficial insects to help.”

While this project was delivered during 2010-12, the knowledge gained during this time has greatly assisted New Zealand’s potato growers to control TPP.

John Jackson, Agriculture Director at McCain Foods Australia/New Zealand.

Sharing resources

In February 2017, Australia’s potato industry received the news it never wanted to hear: TPP had been discovered in Western Australia, in a Perth backyard.

However, Australian growers can learn from New Zealand’s experiences of combating the psyllid over the last decade, particularly through the findings of this strategic levy investment.

“There’s a massive amount of data, and there’s expertise in Australia or New Zealand and everyone’s very happy to share it,” John says.

“There’s a real opportunity to take the R&D to the next step by actually sharing resources to do that.”

John remains optimistic about the Australian and New Zealand potato industries, despite the presence of the psyllid in both countries. At the time of writing, CLso had not been detected in Australia.

“There’s definitely life after psyllids and there’s life after CLso. Canterbury’s a great example. In 2016, Canterbury had a lot of psyllid pressure and some CLso pressure, but it probably had one of the best yielding potato crops it’s had for quite a number of years,” he says.

“It’s not the end of the world – it’s just a management process of how to use the technology to deal with it.”


  • Project PT09004 was a three-year collaboration between Plant & Food Research New Zealand and IPM Technologies, and used an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy to control tomato potato psyllid (TPP) in New Zealand.
  • McCain Foods Australia/New Zealand Agriculture Director John Jackson was involved in the project and used beneficial insects and ‘soft’ chemistry to control TPP population numbers in potato crops.
  • Lessons learnt from this project can be carried over to growers in Australia who are currently managing TPP.
  • Control of Potato Psyllid with an IPM Strategy has been funded by Hort Innovation using the fresh potato and potato processing research and development levies and contributions from the Australian Government.

This article first appeared in the 2017 Grower Success Stories: Real results from the potato R&D levy.