New research conducted in the major potato growing regions of the United States, has found that the Tomato-potato psyllid (TPP) – a highly destructive pest affecting potato crops – can survive even the harshest of winter conditions.

“Despite it being an extremely cold winter in some of the key potato regions of the United States earlier this year, researchers there identified living psyllids in these areas, proving just how resilient this highly destructive pest can be,” said AUSVEG Spokesperson, Luke Raggatt.

AUSVEG is the National Peak Industry Body representing Australia’s more than 2,000 potato growers.

“These findings from the US reaffirm how critical the research and development (R&D) work that is being conducted on the TPP within the Australian potato industry continues to be for growers and processors alike,” said Mr Raggatt.

Amongst Australian research on the TPP is a project currently being conducted by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA), which is monitoring the distribution and prevalence of native psyllid populations in key potato growing areas across eastern Australia using sticky traps. The use of the traps aims to provide the industry with an effective early warning system for incursions of the TPP, which is not currently found in Australia.

“It is critical that the Australian potato industry remains vigilant to ensure that it can swiftly and effectively identify a potential outbreak of the Tomato-potato psyllid,” said Mr Raggatt.

The Tomato-potato psyllid is a small flying insect that has caused catastrophic losses to the potato industries of North America and New Zealand. As a vector of the bacterium Liberibacter which commonly causes the Zebra Chip disease – which renders potatoes unsellable by causing striped bands in the flesh of affected tubers that blacken when cooked – psyllids are a big concern for the potato processing sector.

“While Australia is currently free from the psyllid, there is a real possibility of the pest entering our shores through a number of different means, including the transit of plant materials arriving from affected countries such as the US or New Zealand,” said Mr Raggatt.

R&D activities in Australia conducted in this area have included an investigation into the role of psyllids as vectors of disease; raising the awareness of Zebra Chip disease within the industry; developing rapid diagnostic tools for the detection of pathogens associated with Zebra Chip; and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies that would help to control the psyllid.

“In the last few years, the Australian potato industry has invested heavily in a range of R&D projects in an attempt to ensure that potato growers and processors are in a position to deal with this devastating pest and its associated disease, should it arrive here in the future,” said Mr Raggatt.

“Research findings from the United States, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere, have all re-enforced how much there is still to learn about the behaviour of the TPP and the spread of the destructive disease that it harbours,” said Mr Raggatt.

The US research was conducted by the Idaho, Washington State and Oregon Potato Commissions.

This communication has been funded by HAL using the National Potato Levy and matched funds from the Australian Government.

MEDIA CONTACT: Luke Raggatt, AUSVEG Spokesperson.
Phone: (03) 9822 0388, Mobile: 0403 827 822, Email: