The Delottococcus aberiae or mealy bug is wreaking havoc in the citrus orchards of the Valencian Community. This small mealybug, which arrived in Spain from South Africa in 2009, has spread throughout the Valencian provinces, Murcia, and Catalonia. It still hasn't reached Andalusia, but the sector warns of the serious threat that it poses for citriculture in the community. Andalusia has a citrus area of 84,395 hectares and a production of 2,184,479 tons, according to data for 2020, accounting for 35.70% of the national total.
According to Asaja Sevilla, the cotonet is one of the pests included in the Andalusian Plan for Citrus Phytosanitary Surveillance, launched by the General Directorate of Agricultural and Livestock Production of the Ministry of Agriculture, which has the purpose of detecting it early and carry out eradication actions to avoid its dispersal.
This body recently sent a letter to all the horticultural centers registered in the Andalusian Agrifood Industries Register that grow citrus and persimmon. The letter, which was similar to the one they sent last year, indicates what prophylaxis measures producers must apply to prevent the plague from arriving in the autonomous community.
Recommended preventive measures
The boxes that are used for the collection of the fruit have been identified as the main source of dispersal of the cotonet pest. Thus, authorities recommend that the boxes used for harvesting, as well as all the containers or packaging used for the distribution of fruit, should be single-use or suitably disinfected with water, soap, and bleach.
Likewise, they recommend that the machinery be disinfected after each use to avoid the spread of the pest between cultivation plots. In addition, hygiene measures must be applied to avoid the spread of the pest between plots by cultivators; to do this, they recommend that the clothing used by these operators should be only used once or be suitably disinfected.
Finally, Asaja Sevilla recalled that the maintenance of plant covers facilitates the presence of generalist predators that undoubtedly contribute to the control of the plague.