Spain - Unprecedented whitefly invasion in citrus and kakis in the Region of Valencia

30.04.2024 118 views

At this stage of the season, whitefly has become the most threatening pest for citrus and kaki producers in the Spanish Region of Valencia. So much so, that the Valencian Association of Agricultural Producers (AVA-ASAJA) has described the whitefly outbreak as "an unprecedented invasion that has hit us extraordinarily early and abundantly in most of the producing regions, affecting more than 80% of the fields in some municipalities."

The whitefly, which belongs to the Aleyrodidae insect family (Aleyrodidae), covers the tree leaves with countless white spots and in some areas it is starting to secrete a sugary substance that causes the appearance of the fungus leading to sooty mold. This substance, which also attracts ants, mites and scale insects, ends up weakening the plantations and causing the commercial depreciation of the fruits.

Producers are currently undertaking costly phytosanitary treatments. However, AVA-ASAJA reports serious problems in trying to control the pest, given the exceptional heat recorded since winter, which has triggered the appearance of whitefly populations weeks ahead of the usual dates, and above all, the limited availability of active substances with proven efficacy authorized by European regulations.

Therefore, the Administration has been urged to set up and promote a better whitefly control strategy. On the one hand, the range of active substances that are effective to tackle the pest should be expanded. On the other hand, the breeding and mass release of natural predators with the power to reduce the populations of pests like the South African cotonet should be promoted.

Following a meeting between the Valencian Council of Agriculture and agricultural organizations, the Plant Health Service requested the exceptional authorization of two insecticides to fight the whitefly in citrus and kakis: cyantraniliprole (Exirel) and sulfoxaflor (Closer). AVA-ASAJA is urging the Council to resolve both authorizations as soon as possible.

Bernardo Ferrer, vice president of AVA-ASAJA and producer from Alzira, warns that "nearly all producing areas have been attacked by whitefly, with an average affectation of 30%, but in regions like La Ribera, it exceeds 80% in some areas where there is more interaction between citrus and kaki orchards."

The heads of the orange and mandarin sectors, Alejandro Aparicio and Salvador Juan, respectively, say that "the whitefly is also becoming active earlier and more intensely in La Costera and La Safor."

This same concern has been expressed by Luis Santos, AVA-ASAJA delegate in Vinaròs, who said that "the affected fruit will only be suitable for the juice industry, which pays a lot less."

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