Free plants for volunteer citizen scientists

NT Government

Territorians in the Darwin and Palmerston region are encouraged to volunteer in a project to protect the Northern Territory’s horticulture industry.

Under the tomato potato psyllid (TPP) trapping program, 100 citizen scientists will help contribute data to a national project for 4 weeks in June, and again in September.

TPP is one of the world’s most destructive horticultural pests. The tiny sap-sucking insect feeds mainly on tomatoes, potatoes, chillies, capsicums and eggplants. When they feed on plants and crops they damage them, and also spread bacteria that damages plants.

Adult psyllids look similar to cicadas, but are only a fraction of the size, growing to about 3mm in length. They have been found in Western Australia, but the Territory remains TPP-free.

To help monitor for and stop the spread of this plant pest, a nation-wide project is being led by the Western Australian Government. This is the third year the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade’s Plant Biosecurity team has been assisting the Greater Darwin region’s schools, community gardens, nurseries and residents to take part in the project, which has been running since 2020.

As part of the project, locals are provided with a free plant, along with a kit that contains everything they need to take part, including:

free eggplant or tomato plantsticky insect trapsinstructions for setting up traps and providing datadata submission formsprepaid envelopes

At the end of each week for 4 weeks, participants post the used sticky trap to the department’s entomologists. The scientists can analyse any insects caught, and provide information to the research project looking at TPP across Australia.

The traps also attract other types of psyllids, like Asian citrus psyllid which damages citrus and curry leaf trees. Last year, used traps supplied by program participants helped with the early detection of another plant pest, American serpentine leafminer.

Darwin and Palmerston residents, schools, community gardens and nurseries are being asked to take part in the “adopt-a-trap” program in the coming months by identifying a sunny spot outside (such as a balcony or garden) and registering online here.

Plants will be available for collection from Berrimah Farm from Tuesday 31 May 2022 to Friday 3 June 2022.

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