By Clint Thompson
Whiteflies remain a concern for Alabama specialty crop producers. Unfortunately, they appear to be a constant pest for growers, says Andre da Silva, Alabama Extension vegetable specialist.
He spoke about the pest during the recent Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference in Savannah, Georgia.
“Our growers need to learn how to manage them during the season. We need to learn how to continue growing crops with them. They will be here,” da Silva said. “Using those row covers or a different plastic mulching color is an alternative that we have seen success. Keeping the spring programs for insecticides are good, but they also create resistance. We have seen growers apply those insecticides over and over.
“We are looking for alternatives. There are alternatives that are available.”
The most effective management solution available for some specialty crops starts before the plants are put in the ground.
“Find cultivars that are resistant to the virus transmitted by the whitefly is important as well. In the case of tomatoes, find varieties that are resistant to tomato yellow leaf curl is key. There is no other alternative,” he added. “For yellow squash and zucchini, we don’t have varieties that are resistant to the crumple virus. That can become a problem. If you use a variety that has shown some tolerance to those viruses, that’s the best approach. You will not have as good of yield as the one that has resistance, but it’s the best approach.”
Whiteflies are a problem for vegetable growers throughout the Southeast. Alabama production is usually affected by whiteflies approximately two weeks after Georgia producers observe the pest. Da Silva believes that is a fact his farmers can use to their advantage.
“Dr. A (Ayanava Majumdar) has that insect alert, so we are trying to introduce the whitefly there as well so we can help our growers in the southeast of the state,” da Silva said.