The weather has been relatively kind to Kern County growers so far this year, but vegetable crops are under threat from beet leafhoppers this spring.
Joe Nunez, farm adviser for the University of California-Davis Extension Office in Kern County, said the state agriculture department is reporting the small green bugs are at high levels in the foothills and the valley near growing fields.
Courtesy USDASize doesn't matter when it comes to beet leafhoppers. The green bugs measure only about one-eighth on an inch long, but the curly top virus they carry is a big worry to vegetable growers.“As the hills dry the beet leafhoppers will start migrating down to the veggies and possibly vector curly top,” Nunez said.
In late April, Nunez predicted the severity of the problem would be known in a few weeks.
Although tomatoes are traditionally a favorite with the beet leafhoppers, the bugs also feed on potatoes and the foliage of other vegetables. The bugs’ feeding damages plants, but the larger danger is from the curly top virus, which they carry.
The virus causes tomato and potato plant leaves to turn yellow, curl and often create a purple color in leaf veins and stems. Growth is stunted and the plants’ stems become stiff. The tomatoes and potatoes of infected plants are generally deformed.