- Fera confirms the first outbreak in the UK of Tuta absoluta - the South American tomato moth
Fera confirms the first outbreak in the UK of Tuta absoluta - the South American tomato moth
Tuta absoluta is a pest of tomatoes from South America, mining the
leaves, apical buds and stems, and burrowing into fruit. It was first detected in Europe (Spain) in 2006 and has subsequently been spreading rapidly across Southern Europe, causing very high levels of damage to tomato crops in some regions. It has previously been intercepted on tomatoes at a number of different packing stations in the UK, but the first outbreak has now been confirmed at a tomato growing site in the South East.
In January 2009 the UK Plant Health Service received notification from the Dutch plant health authorities that they had been intercepting T. absoluta at packing stations importing Spanish tomato fruits following a monitoring survey of packing stations. In March 2009, the UK intercepted T. absoluta for the first time on imported Spanish tomato fruit at a packing station. A monitoring survey of all packing stations close to tomato growers began following this interception. This survey was widened in May 2009. To date, there are 14 packing sites in the UK with confirmed infestations of T. absoluta. The pest is being introduced on imported tomato fruits from infested areas, primarily Spain but also Italy.
In an attempt to mitigate the risk of spread of the pest from packing stations to UK growing sites, statutory control measures were put in place at infested sites, and all sites were issued with a best practice guide on preventing the spread of T. absoluta from packing stations. In addition, a Plant Pest Notice was distributed and a representative from the UK Plant Health Service advised the British Tomato Growers Association about the pest and measures to prevent it getting into tomato production sites. Despite this, in July 2009 the pest was found at a tomato production site. The pathway of entry into the production site is believed to be via the packing station sending to the tomato producer packing material which previously contained infested imported tomato fruit.
Eradication action is being undertaken under the supervision of Fera's Plant Health and Seeds Inspectors and further surveillance will be carried out in the vicinity of the sites involved.
Growers and packers are advised to be vigilant against further incursions of this pest. Advice is available to packing stations to help them mitigate the risk of introducing and spreading the pest. The Plant Pest Notice provides further information.