In 2005, an Arizona research scientist, funded by the U.S. cotton industry, announced the discovery of a new biotype, Biotype Q, of the silverleaf whitefly. The silverleaf whitefly has a huge host range, including many ornamental crops, but also including cotton and vegetable crops.
The ornamental industry, which, unlike most of the rest of agriculture, ships plants intended for planting, coast-to-coast and internationally. Thus, the ornamentals industry is often targeted as “being responsible for spreading the problem.” In addition, the problem would be exacerbated by grower panic and strong chemical control of the new Biotype Q – which would cause it to develop chemical resistance to our existing pesticides. Grower education and cooperation became paramount. Finally, research continues to help determine the continued efficacy of chemicals against Biotype B or Biotype Q.
More recently, the European Union began enforcing a regulation that has been in place for several years but not strictly interpreted. Under that regulation, herbaceous plants are essentially denied access to EU countries.
In part as a result of SAF’s efforts, a joint ornamentals-cotton-vegetable “Whitefly Task Force” was formed under the direction of USDA-APHIS.
A strong proactive effort by SAF, scientists including Dr. Lance Osborne, University of Florida, and the major propagators shipping cuttings from offshore, has been very successful. Growers are better educated about whitefly monitoring and control, and the ornamentals industry has been recognized, especially by the cotton industry, as proactive and ahead of the curve. In 2005, Q-whiteflies were discovered on ornamentals crops (primarily on poinsettia, but on other species as well) in 23 states. In 2006, they were found in only two states. 2007 presented more challenges, but SAF worked with the propagators and growers and serious problems were avoided.
No Q-whiteflies have been found to date in cotton or vegetable fields. When they are found, we can probably expect another outcry from those industries.
The February, 2007 meeting held with the EU did not produce the results we had hoped for. Thus, later in the spring, SAF and ANLA met with the Deputy Administrator of APHIS, to push for further action.
As a result, the Deputy Administrator met with the EU again, informally, in June. Our Task Force scientists prepared a revised Management Plan and Compliance Agreement, for growers who want to ship cuttings or plants to the EU. The EU considered that plan at its September meeting and has come back to us for further clarification, which we are in the process of providing.
In the interim, several large U.S. growers who are trying to ship product in small quantities, either for trialling or for increase, to the EU, are being stopped in their efforts. This problem is gaining more urgency. APHIS is working with us on trying to find ways of resolving it, both formally with the EU, and as a matter of state inspection practices, here in the U.S