By Clint Thompson
One pest that can have a devastating effect on vegetable crops in the Southeast has been a non-factor so far this production season. But that doesn’t mean growers should let their guard down against whiteflies.
“We probably have the lowest populations we’ve had in several years coming out of winter vegetables, which is fantastic,” says Stormy Sparks, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension vegetable specialist. “But whiteflies just have tremendous reproductive potential. Under the wrong conditions, they can go from very low populations to a problem in a relatively short time. We’re always keeping an eye on that.”
Whiteflies migrate from winter vegetables to spring vegetables to agronomic crops, like cotton, to fall vegetables and back to winter vegetables. Sparks credits vegetable growers as well as cotton producers in maintaining low numbers.
“I really think what we’re seeing is the effects of just the overall good management at the grower level across multiple crops. I think the cotton guys last year really did a favor for the fall vegetables. The vegetable guys have maintained that management,” Sparks said.
Whiteflies can cause feeding injury issues in vegetables. They can transmit two viruses: cucurbit leaf crumple virus and cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus. Vegetables are highly susceptible to these viruses. These include squash, zucchini, cucumber, cantaloupe and snap beans.