The tomato producing sector of the Canary Islands is in trouble due to an unusual Tuta absoluta pest, which has been caused by the anomalous winter temperatures.
The pest has spread in the tomato-producing regions of Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Fuerteventura, and its intensity is such that many local producers have been forced to uproot the crops, given the impossibility of getting the situation under control. In addition, the pest is beginning to take a toll on other export crops, such as potatoes.
The damages that growers are suffering will cause great economic losses and the loss of many customers, given the impossibility to supply what had been previously agreed. Since the situation is so serious, local and export producers have held meetings with the Councils of the Primary Sector and/or Agriculture of the three cabildos involved, as well as with the general direction of Agriculture of the Government of the Canary Islands.
In the meetings, the sector has asked for an action plan for the control of the Tuta, based on the one that was carried out in 2009 against the whitefly, and which yielded excellent results.
The measures requested include an initial shock phase, a series of medium-term actions and long-term actions. However, the most immediate action involves the management of plant waste, which is the main habitat of the pest, since the accumulation of waste can lead to an irreversible situation that would prevent the cultivation of tomatoes and, probably, of potatoes.
For its part, the Government of the Canary Islands has approved a package of measures that includes the management of plant waste.
The Tuta absoluta is a small microlepidoptera moth, measuring 7-9 mm (there are 7 to 8 generations per year). It comes originally from the north of South America, from where it has spread to almost the entire planet. It attacks both leaves and fruit. In the case of leaves, it causes the appearance of translucent areas that cause the leaf to dry. In the fruit, the damage is caused by means of bites and incisions, which results in a loss of its commercial value.
Its control has become a global challenge, since it generates serious economic losses.