Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Feds Find New Ag Pest in SoCal Ports Shipment

Federal government inspectors have found a species of tiny agricultural pest at the Southern California ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles that has not been seen before in the United States.

The species of leafhopper, found by inspectors last month in a shipment of pineapples from Costa Rica, has the potential to damage grapes, potatoes, soybeans and corn.

Leafhoppers feed on plant sap by piercing plants with their mouthparts. Widely known as an agricultural pest, the leafhoppers can introduce plant pathogens such as viruses and bacteria through their feeding. While some of the 20,000 species of leafhoppers feed off numerous plants, some are very plant specific, including the beet leafhopper, the potato leafhopper and the white apple leafhopper. Federal officials did not identify the newly discovered species of leafhopper.

The leafhopper discovery was the second time in the past two months that federal inspectors have found a previously unseen-in-the-US agriculture pest at the Southern California ports. In June, inspectors found a previously unseen type of aphid.

Last year, federal and California state inspectors found the European grape moth in Bay Area traps. The federal government believes that moth arrived through the Bay Area ports and that the pest could threaten the state's $18 billion a year wine making industry. In June, the federal government added an addition $1.75 million to the $3 million already allocated to combat the spread of the moth.