Jun 12, 2017
Tour observantly through orchards to detect potato leafhopper

Potato leafhopper (PLH) does not overwinter in the northeast but instead migrates on thermals (warm air masses) from the south. It is generally a more serious problem in the Hudson Valley than in western New York or the Champlain Valley; however, weather fronts such as those resulting from the recent storms and warmups occurring in the middle states as well as in our region provide ample opportunity for most of the region to share the wealth, so it doesn’t hurt to tour observantly through a few orchards now.

Because PLH comes in constantly during the season, there are no distinct broods or generations and the pest may be present continuously in orchards from June through harvest. PLH feeds on tender young terminal leaves. Initially, injured leaves turn yellow around the edges, then become chlorotic and deformed (cupping upward) and later turn brown or scorched. Damage is caused by a toxin injected by PLH while feeding. PLH also occasionally causes symptoms similar to the effects of growth regulators, such as excessive branching preceding or beyond the point of extensive feeding.

PLH damage is often mistaken for injury caused by herbicides, nutrient deficiency, or over-fertilization. PLH injury may not be serious on mature trees but can severely stunt the growth of young trees. Nymphs and adults should be assessed on 50–100 randomly selected terminal leaves in an orchard.

Older trees should be inspected approximately every three weeks during the summer. Young trees should be sampled weekly through July. PLH nymphs are often described as moving sideways like crabs, whereas WALH generally move forward and back. No formal studies have been conducted in N.Y. to determine the economic injury level for PLH on apples, so we suggest a tentative threshold of an average of one PLH (nymph or adult) per leaf.

Little is known about the natural enemies of PLH, but it is assumed that they cannot effectively prevent damage by this pest in commercial New York orchards. Damage by this migratory pest is usually worse when it shows up early. PLH can cause significant damage to newly planted trees that are not yet established. When PLH, white apple leafhopper (WALH), rose leafhopper (RLH) and aphids are present, control measures are often warranted.

Field trials conducted some years ago in the Hudson Valley evaluated reduced rates of Provado against all three species of leafhoppers. Provado was applied in combinations at a full rate (2 oz/100 gal) and a quarter rate (0.5 oz/100 gal), at varying intervals (3rd–5th cover). Nymphs of PLH, WALH, and RLH were sampled and leaf damage by PLH was monitored. Because of Provado’s translaminar activity, all rates and schedules produced excellent control of WALH/RLH nymphs (however, reduced rates will not control leafminer).

Against PLH nymphs, the number of applications was shown to be more important than rate; i.e., better protection of new foliage. Considering the percentage of leaves with PLH damage, the number of applications again appeared to be more important than application rate. Admire Pro, the current imidacloprid product from Bayer, is also an excellent aphicide, and the same principle would hold as for PLH – maintaining coverage of new growth is more important than the rate. Moreover, reduced rates are likely to increase the survival of cecidomyiid and syrphid predators that are common and effective biological control agents.

Arthur Agnello, Cornell University

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P.O. Box 128
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