Severe damage

Spain: Orchid thrips attack Valencia's citrus fruits

A new alarm has been raised by Valencia's citrus producers after the widespread detection for the first time of orchid thrips (Chaetanaphotrips orchidi) attacks in certain citrus production areas of the Region of Valencia, as confirmed by the Valencian Association of Farmers (AVA-ASAJA) following a growing number of reports. The areas where the most cases have been detected are the municipalities of Tavernes, Xeraco, Oliva, Carcaixent, Sueca and Polinyà; that is, in the comarcas of La Safor and La Ribera.

The damage caused by the thrips in Valencian citrus plantations is starting to reach worrying proportions, to the point that many growers are reporting levels of infection that oscillate between 40% and 50% of the harvest, with Navelina oranges being the most affected. This insect causes the appearance of very noticeable spots and damage on the fruit's skin, making them unusable for fresh marketing, so in the best case scenario, they can only be used for the production of juice.

The presence of orchid thrips had already been detected and documented in Spain some time ago, but its incidence was limited to certain ornamental plants. It was not until last year when it began to attack citrus fruits. To be precise, this happened in the area of ​​Alcanar, Tarragona, and this year the problem has affected Valencian citriculture for the first time. The reasons for this change of behaviour on the part of the insect are not clear and as of today and there are only hypotheses. The producers speak of a possible growth in the populations of this species, perhaps motivated by the persistently high temperatures, but no one knows for sure.

"This is a very serious issue," states the president of AVA-ASAJA, Cristóbal Aguado, "and that is why we are asking the Council of Agriculture to get down to work and find out the cause of this sudden outbreak of the pest, as well as to carry out an exhaustive follow-up to determine the extent of the losses already caused in citrus orchards and, of course, to design and execute a plan to fight the thrips."

This insect, which is typical of tropical and subtropical areas, attacks all citrus varieties, especially Navel and Valencia oranges, as well as red grapefruit varieties and ornamental crops. It is a very polyphagous species that has been catalogued as an "important pest" in Florida and California, US, where it has been causing damage for some time. In the last decade, it has also virulently attacked citrus fruits in the north east of Argentina.

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