Response to Q-Biotype Whitefly

April 22, 2005 - 12:14

GPN Weekly has been keeping you up to date on the recent Q-Biotype whitefly finding. Here is what we've found out this week: California and Arizona have announced findings of a very small number (less than 10 individuals) of the Q-Biotype silverleaf whitefly in those states. Industry, the states and the U.S. Department of Agriculture agree that more scientific information is needed to assess the significance of these finds. Response must be based on sound science. The Federal government and the State of California have initiated targeted surveys to try to learn more about any possible populations. The State of Florida has issued an advisory to its inspectors asking them, and growers, to be on the alert for whitefly populations that appear to show pesticide resistance, and to send any such samples for testing. Whiteflies exist on hundreds of ornamental and food crops worldwide and are not considered quarantine pests within the United States, or in association with plant and plant product imports from other countries to the United States.

Why is this important?

The Q-Biotype, just like many other whiteflies, can damage ornamentals, vegetables, cotton and other crops unless controlled. The cotton, vegetable and melon industry, especially in Arizona, was damaged in the 1980s when the B-Biotype was allowed to reach high population levels before science and industry worked together to get it under control. The current situation is very different, and there is still time to prevent that kind of problem. No one knows how many Q-Biotypes might already exist in the United States. All potentially impacted interests are cautious, however. Even if chemical and biocontrol options are available, all of agriculture must cooperate to avoid a problem.

What are we doing?

Working together and working proactively, agriculture - including the ornamentals industry - still has time to avoid any new problem.

The Society of American Florists (SAF), the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) and other industry representatives participated in an information-gathering meeting held on Tuesday, April 19, 2005, in Phoenix, hosted by the Arizona Cotton Growers Association. That meeting also included regulators from the Federal government and the governments of California and Arizona, cotton, melon and vegetable growers, scientists and others. Following that meeting, SAF and ANLA met with APHIS, which has agreed to form a national cooperative stakeholder effort involving the ornamentals, cotton and other impacted industry representatives, state and federal officials and scientists. That informal group will coordinate and ensure ongoing communication and discussion of efforts.

Will regulation help?

At this point in the effort, it is generally agreed that regulation would not be helpful - and, in fact, could harm efforts to stay ahead of the development of resistance in common pests of the industry, said both SAF and ANLA. SAF, working with ANLA, the National Cotton Council, scientists and USDA and state governments, urges all growers to cooperate and be part of this united effort to prevent, identify and manage whitefly problems in American agriculture.

What can growers do?

All commercial growers should assist in the ongoing effort to stay ahead of pesticide resistance development in common pests, including the whitefly. As always, growers must take care to monitor resistance and to use good "best management" practices including active scouting, clean growing conditions and sound chemical choice rotations. As always, if growers detect any insect populations that seem to be resistant to commonly used pesticides and pest management practices, they should contact their local experts, cooperative extension agents, county agriculture officials or the technical services experts of the propagator.

For more information contact Lin Schmale, senior director of government relations (703) 836-8700 or visit www.safnow.org; or Marc Teffeau, ANLA director of research and regulatory affairs (202) 789-2900 or visit anla.org. In the meantime, we here at GPN Weekly will keep our ears open for any new information.

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