by Wally Richards
TOMATO PSYLLID PROBLEMS
True to form Spring started on 1 September across New Zealand and with it a surge in gardeners visiting garden centres, buying up plants and stuff to get underway in their gardens.
Now at the beginning of the season is a good time to review previous articles on the tomato/potato psyllid that has ruined many a crop in the past few years as the pests have spread across most of New Zealand from humble beginnings (from Australia) in 2006.
My first realisation of a problem was about 2009 when a crop of late potatoes was harvested to find that the tubers were only as big as marbles and re-shooting. At the time I suspected it was too much nitrogen in the growing medium as the tops were big and the crop surprisingly little. The tomatoes growing nearby showed some yellowing and up curling leaves but other than that a reasonable crop.
I then moved to another location in Palmerston North which was a good sized warehouse with accommodation above it. The outside was mainly concrete with a high concrete block wall on the boundary of the warehouse next door. This created a micro-climate trapping heat between the two story warehouse and the two storey concrete block wall with a tennis court size area of concrete in between: an ideal area for psyllids to thrive in.
I dont know if I brought them (Psyllids) from my previous location or they came in on seedlings I purchased but they were there and thriving. Tomato plants started out ok but soon lower leaves were curling up and going yellow. Later these plants would get a fungus growth up and down the trunks and die.
A tamarillo I planted grew up to about 6 foot [2 metres] tall in the container I planted it in and then leaves started going yellow from the bottom up, then falling off till there were no leaves. New sprouts appeared at the place the leaves had been then they too frizzled up and the whole plant died all in one season.
Using Neem products helped but did not eliminate the pests so I tried quarantine cloth which the mesh is too small for the adult psyllid to pass through. That helped a lot but did not solve the problem as the pests carried on feeding on my capsicum, chili, okra and pepino plants where the damage was smaller than usual size fruit.
I see on the Internet suggestions of various chemical insecticides along with natural ones for control but as far as I can see and from feedback; they help but do not control or eradicate.
Quarantine cloth helped but was awkward.
So I consulted my friend from the Australian company, NutriTech and he told me that by making the cells in the plant walls so tough with silica it would prevent the young nymphs from feeding after they hatch out of their eggs.
The program involved given the young plants a drink of the Wallys Silicon and Boron Soil drench done at planting time and again two weeks later. That is it for that product as too much boron can cause toxicity. The boron is used to ensure the uptake of the silica by the plant’s roots.
At the same time as planting the seedlings you spray them with Wallys Silicon Cell Strengthening Spray with Wallys Silicon Super Spreader added which drives the previous spray into the plant. This I made up in a handy trigger sprayer to which I added Magic Botanic Liquid as well for the many benefits MBL provides. The products keep well in the Trigger so you use weekly until all is used up then make a fresh lot.
Spray the plants weekly till they get to over a metre tall then you can drop back to a two- weekly spray. Once the plants are taller than you then a monthly spray is all that you need to do.
Now what happened was this; hundreds of eggs were laid by the many adult females that started off in the new season. The eggs hatched but the nymphs could not feed on the tough walls of the leaves and branches/trunk so their lives were short and they starved to death. The adults lived their life span but also could not feed on the tough plants so they also died early and within about a month there were no more Psyllids in my glasshouses or outside — completely wiped out of my property.
I also noticed a strange thing, the leaves of the tomato plants were double if not triple the size of what they normally would be. The reason is that silica helps the plant gather more energy from the sun and as a result of that the plant grows larger leaves and bigger, better flavored fruit.
So it was a double win situation no psyllids and really big tomato plants with the best crop of tomatoes that I can recall. (Of course I was also applying my Wallys Secret Tomato Food)
It also meant once again after a period of not having many tomatoes because of the psyllids I then had tomatoes of the best type to give away again. I used the same products on a young Tamarillo plant I purchased and it grew and produced a small crop first season. To be sure I also treated the capsicum and chili plants with the cell strengthening products and they did splendidly also.
The following year I did not need to use the products as there was no psyllids in my neck of the woods.
One thing you have to watch out for is plants you purchase, tomatoes etc that they do not have any adult psyllids or eggs on them as that is the most likely way you will start a psyllid problem in your back yard. They could come from next door also but as insects are lazy they dont travel far unless they have to. It has always been white fly that is a curse on tomato plants as well as many other plants.
If you are putting Wallys Neem Tree Powder in the planting hole and Wallys Neem Tree Granules on top of the growing medium/soil that helps a lot with controlling white fly.
Also the Wally Yellow Sticky White Fly traps should be used tied to the stake above each tomato plant and raised as the plant gets taller. It is amazing how many hundreds of insect pests get lured to the traps and come to a sticky end.
The traps are available in packs of five, double sided so you can peel the cover off one side and when that is covered in insects use the other side.
The silicon cell strengthening spray can be used on other plants to increase leaf sizes and I would add molasses to the spray as well which also helps make for larger leaves on plants.
Like the bigger the Solar Panel the more electricity and with plants the bigger the leaves the more energy is produced so the plant grows much better. It can help overcome the dimming of the skies that prevent us from growing food crops.