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Spain - New quarantine pest in Huelva affecting citrus and berries

The presence in Huelva of the quarantine pest Scirtothrips aurantii Faure has been confirmed by the General Directorate of Agricultural and Livestock Production of the Government of Andalusia, raising alarms among citrus and berry producers in the province.

The insect was detected for the first time last October by the Official Agrofood and Agro-livestock Control Laboratory of Huelva in a sample taken as part of the surveys carried out in the framework of the Andalusian Plan for Citrus Phytosanitary Surveillance. After the analysis of the sample, its presence was initially verified on farms in Lepe and Cartaya. Later, it was confirmed to have spread to farms in Ayamonte, Bollullos Par del Condado, Gibraleón, Hinojos, Isla Cristina, Lucena del Puerto, Punta Umbría, San Bartolomé de la Torre, San Silvestre de Guzmán and Villanueva de los Castillejos.

Scirtothrips aurantii mostly attacks oranges when they are still small and, like other thrips, causes a wide scar around the peduncle that widens as the fruit grows, leaving it without commercial value.

The threat could also extend to the berries of Huelva, as the insect has been detected in plantations of various crops, including strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. However, for the time being, these cases appear not to affect the fruit, but the plants, weakening them and reducing their production.

For all the above, the Council of Agriculture published a resolution on December 21 (dated December 13) in which it resolved to officially declare the presence of the Scirtothrips aurantii Faure quarantine pest in Andalusia, and more specifically in Huelva, naming the plots affected and establishing buffer zones to prevent its spread.

The text also outlines the mandatory phytosanitary measures for the pest’s eradication. Farm owners detecting the presence of the insect in their crops have the obligation to notify the Department of Plant Health of the Territorial Delegation of Agriculture. Those with plots devoted to crops in which the presence of the insect has been detected and in areas demarcated in the resolution must carry out the necessary surveys to determine whether the harmful organism is present on their farms.

This pest is considered a quarantine one by the European Commission and so far it had been confirmed to be present in Yemen and in 16 African countries, including South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, as well as in the French island of Reunion.

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