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EFSA provides pest categorisation for Guatemalan potato tuber moth

19 January 2018

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Panel on Plant Health has performed a pest categorisation of Tecia solanivora (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) the Guatemalan potato tuber moth, for the EU.

T. solanivora is a well-defined species which feeds exclusively on Solanum tuberosum. It was first described from Costa Rica in 1973 and has spread through Central America and into northern South America via trade of seed potatoes. It has also spread to Mexico and the Canary Islands and most recently to mainland Spain where it is under official control in Galicia and Asturias.

Potatoes in the field and storage can be attacked. Some authors regard T. solanivora as the most important insect pest of potatoes globally. T. solanivora is currently regulated by Council Directive 2000/29/EC, listed in Annex II/AI as Scrobipalpopsis solanivora. Larvae feed and develop within potato tubers; infested tubers therefore provide a pathway for pest introduction and spread, as does the soil accompanying potato tubers if it is infested with eggs or pupae.

As evidenced by the ongoing outbreaks in Spain, the EU has suitable conditions for the development and potential establishment of T. solanivora. The pest could spread within the EU via movement of infested tubers; adults can fly and disperse locally. Larval feeding destroys tubers in the field and in storage. In the warmer southern EU, where the development would be fastest, yield losses would be expected in potatoes.

Measures are available to inhibit entry via traded commodities (e.g. prohibition on the introduction of S. tuberosum). T. solanivora satisfies all of the criteria assessed by EFSA to satisfy the definition of a Union quarantine pest. It does not satisfy EU regulated non-quarantine pest (RNQP) status because it is under official control. There are uncertainties over the effectiveness of preventing illegal imports via passenger baggage and the magnitude of potential impacts in the cool EU climate.

Defra has published a fact sheet on the Guatemalan potato tuber moth.

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