Despite a few setbacks, David Horton and his team with the USDA Yakima Agricultural Research Laboratory believe they're a year or two away from identifying pheromones to lure potato psyllids to sticky traps used for insect monitoring in potato fields.
The research entomologist concedes the pheromones may not be effective on psyllids beyond a radius of several feet.
Potato psyllids can harbor the Liberibacter bacterium responsible for the crop disease zebra chip, which leaves bands in tuber flesh that darken when fried. Zebra chip first arrived in the Pacific Northwest in 2011.
Prior to starting his work in zebra chip in 2009, after hearing about problems with the disease in Texas, Horton identified the pheromone used by pear psyllids, which leave a sticky resin that devalues pears. His team recently started work on a pheromone spray to confuse pear psyllids at orchards and stop them from mating.
In potato psyllids captured in Texas, Horton isolated two likely pheromones, yet to be proven in trials. However, researchers have learned there are three distinct biotypes of psyllids. While the western and northwestern biotypes are found in the Pacific Northwest, the Texas central biotype that Horton studied has never been detected in this region.
SOURCE: John O'Connell, Capital Press