Native Psyllid populations and the distribution of Candidatus phytoplasma australiense
The recent accidental introduction of the tomato potato psyllid (Bactericera cockerelli) into New Zealand has raised fears that this insect pest could readily enter Australia and have a similar devastating impact on local solanaceous crop industries. The psyllid is a vector of the bacterium, “Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum”, which is associated with psyllid yellows disease in tomatoes, potatoes, capsicums, eggplants and tamarillos, and zebra chip disease in potatoes. Another plant disease “Candidatus Phytoplasma australiense” was also recently discovered in New Zealand potatoes and the tomato potato psyllid was implicated in its spread. This phytoplasma is present in Australia, where it affects several economically important species of plants, but has not been detected in potatoes. The finding of the Phytoplasma in New Zealand potatoes has raised concerns that it could potentially be transmitted into Australian potato crops by native psyllid species. The tomato potato psyllid could enter Australia either through the accidental importation of infested plant material or by the natural dispersal of psyllids on easterly airflows from New Zealand. Yellow sticky traps are an effective method for detecting the presence of adult tomato potato psyllids.