By Clint Thompson
It is about that time of the summer that one insect becomes more noticeable for certain vegetable farmers and cotton producers. Right on cue, low whitefly infestations have been observed, explains University of Georgia Cooperative Extension vegetable entomologist Stormy Sparks.
“Phillip (Roberts) told me (the other day) that he had one person report some yesterday, but really, really low populations,” Sparks said. “We’re getting into July. It’s about time for them to at least show up somewhere.”
Whether they worsen over the next couple of months depends largely on how much rain South Georgia continues to receive. What has already been a wet summer is expected to get wetter this week when Tropical Storm Elsa moves through the region. Persistent rains can knock back whitefly populations.
“You never want a tropical storm but a good tropical storm at the right time really knocks them back,” Sparks said in 2020.
If whitefly infestations get out of control, comparable to 2017, they can cause major damage to the fall vegetable crops.
Whiteflies cause feeding injury issues in certain vegetable crops but can also transmit two viruses: cucurbit leaf crumple virus and cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus. Vegetables like squash, zucchini, cucumber, cantaloupe and snap beans are highly susceptible to these viruses. Commercial cultivars that have resistance or tolerance to these pathogens are not available.