Tomato producers told to be wary of moth

An invasive species of moth could wreak havoc on Costa Rica’s agriculture, according to an updated order sent out from the U. S. Department of Agriculture. The agency has advised Costa Rica and other Latin American nations to take a series of actions to prevent the Tuta absoluta moth from spreading and being sent to the U.S. through tomato exports.

Tuta absoluta, also known as Meyrick, is the strain of moth that is known for aggressively feeding by its larvae on tomato plants. It is capable of destroying entire plantings of tomatoes. The federal order from the U.S. agency serves as a warning to regional countries to prevent having the Tuta absoluta introduced.

The small insect provides a massive threat to farmers as it reproduces at a rapid rate. According to the North American Plant Protection Organization, the moth species originated in South America and has been responsible for 80 to 100 percent losses in tomato plantations.

Gina Monteverde, head of Costa Rica’s pesticide certification department, said farmers and distributors will have to follow a few new guidelines as a result of the U.S. order. All exports must come from areas free of Tuta absoluta, she said. The products must also be treated with bromomethane pesticide, among additional steps for further exporting.

Although the Mideast has most of the confirmed cases of the moth, a monitoring service says there have been two confirmed sightings in Costa Rica and also some in Colombia.

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