By Clint Thompson
Planting season is under way for Florida’s tomato producers.
Hopefully, farmers have done their due diligence and planned for whiteflies with proper sanitation of previous crops. That is one of the best management tactics growers can implement, says Hugh Smith, Associate Professor of Entomology and Nematology at the University of Florida Gulf Coast Research and Education Center.
“In tomatoes down here, the main issue are the whiteflies and tomato yellow leaf curl virus. The most important thing for that is for (growers) just to make sure that anything from a previous season has been completely destroyed and cleaned up,” Smith said. “There’s some places where there’s still a lot. (Farmers) always want to know what to spray, and that hasn’t changed a whole lot. But just the importance of clean culture, whether it’s tomatoes or watermelons and cucurbits that also have a lot of whitefly-transmitted viruses; just making sure there’s nothing from previous seasons that’s still there in terms of inoculum for virus or whiteflies.”
Tomato yellow curl virus can cause very high yield losses and reduce the crop’s marketability. In some instances, the entire crop can be lost. The virus can cause yellowing foliage, leaf curling and stunting.
The rains over the past two months helped suppress whiteflies during the summer. They also encouraged natural pathogens that attacked whitefly populations.