The end of the year festive foods might not go too well for South Africans as the state’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) detects its first Tomato Leaf Miner outbreak on tomatoes which could possibly affect yield.

The DAFF related this on Friday. DAFF said it has detected its first outbreak of Tuta absoluta, commonly known as Tomato Leaf Miner, a pest which originates from South America and can ruin tomato and potato crops.

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The pest is highly destructive as it feeds on plant leaves, stems and fruits and can cause widespread crop infection, the department said.

“This pest is disastrous, particularly for tomato production and food security in general,” the department said in a statement, adding that the biggest challenge with this pest is that it can develop resistance to chemicals within a single season.”

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The specimens collected from pheromone traps were sent to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) Plant Health Diagnostic laboratories and the identification was confirmed by a Lepidoptera specialist from the Agricultural Research Council (ARC). “Eradication of the insect is impossible, but the threat could be contained and the tomato and potato industries were working with the government to come up with a plan of action,” the department said.

Tomato leaf miner spread from South America to Europe in 2006 and across to northern Africa. DAFF said since then, it has spread throughout the Middle East to India and first reported in Kenya and Tanzania in 2014, then in Zambia in September 2016.

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Tomato and potato producers are therefore encouraged to apply good agricultural practices and/or integrated pest management, i.e. to do field sanitation, use detection traps, scout for this pest and apply relevant registered agrochemicals when necessary, such as when this pest has been detected in a field trap.

The department also calls on farmers to alert them early if they suspect any occurrence of this pest in on their plants, It also warned that under poor control measures, Tomato leaf miner can cause up to 100% loss of tomatoes and could also, to a lesser extent, affect potatoes.

This in itself poses a serious threat to food security, owing to the fact that tomatoes and potatoes are prominently part of the daily diet for many people in South Africa.”

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