5 ways to beat the Tomato Potato Psyllid

Tomato with TPPIt’s the psyllid season. With a potential to wipe out up to 80% of your gorgeous tomato crop it’s an important pest to understand. Managing psyllids is extra time and extra money, but come on guys – it’s tomatoes were talkin’ about! Are they worth it? Hell yeah!

1. Know the signs.

Yellowing tips; curling under leaves; twisting leaves; smaller, thinner fernlike foliage; less flowers; fallen flowers; slow growing (plant and fruit).

2. Know the psyllid.

Adult psyllids are a 3mm long, black cicada like insect with clear wings. There are 2 white stripes across the abdomen (get your glasses on!) They’re very mobile and fly off when you disturb the plant, so make like a ninja when approaching. The yellow eggs are very obvious, hanging on a small stalk underneath leaves. The nymphs look exactly like scale but they are pale yellow turning tan, also under the leaves. Around the nymphs you will see white sugars dotted. These insects are too small for my camera, so here are some helpful photos (and fact sheet) courtesy of plant and food research

3.Prevention and Management

If psyllids are really bad at yours you might consider a handful of Neem granules beneath each tomato plant at planting. Something I’d only do in extreme situations, concerned as I am about the impact of Neem granules on soil life.

Neem oil sprayed at the first sign of psyllid is the business. Spray weekly until you’re on top of the problem (you may only need the one spray). As prevention/ management take it out to two weekly intervals. Staked, pruned tomatoes make spraying easy, unpruned tomatoes could be a major!

Tomatoes are not the only solanacae psyllids love to suck – peppers,  eggplants and tamarillo are also affected so I am following the same programme for these. Kumara and convulvulus are potential hosts as well (will be keeping a close eye). Potatoes (another solanacae beloved by psyllids) are easier to manage – either grow Maori potatoes who seem to resist the pest OR cover your crop with wondermesh – no spraying required!

4. Call in the beneficials

Build up your ladybug, hover fly and lacewing populations by having a spray free environment and providing year round nectar, water and wild areas for habitat.

5.Prevention is the best cure

Check every plant that you buy or get given for the eggs, nymphs and sugars. Remove as many wild solanacae from your property as you can eg: nightshade and poroporo.

PS: Pyrethrum is recommended as an organic spray to manage psyllids, and indeed it will. Only thing is it will ‘manage’ all the bees, parasitic wasps, hoverflies and ladybirds too; yes it’s a real knock-everything-dead kind of spray. Stick to Neem if you would please.