By Clint Thompson
Insect pests normally thrive in hot and dry weather conditions. But whiteflies have yet to flourish this year, though conditions are ripe for infestations to take off, according to Stormy Sparks, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension vegetable entomologist.
“Surprisingly, we have not had whiteflies yet. The hot and dry weather is perfect for them, but apparently, we kept them low enough during the winter coming into the spring that they just haven’t had a chance to build yet,” Sparks said.
Whiteflies cause feeding injury issues in vegetables and can 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.
Georgia farmers grow cole crops, like broccoli, kale and cabbage, from September through May. Cucurbits are grown in the summer, and cotton is produced in the early fall. All of these crops serve as host plants for whiteflies.
Sparks constantly reminds growers about proper sanitation with whitefly management. Once producers are finished harvesting, they should clean the field and not leave a plant to serve as a potential host. Farmers have improved in recent years in getting rid of winter vegetables once they’re done harvesting.
“I think if you look at what has not happened the last two or three years, I hope it’s largely because our growers are doing a much better job of managing from crop to crop. That includes vegetable growers and cotton growers and everything else whitefly hits,” Sparks said.