Pest categorisation of Neomaskellia andropogonis
The EFSA Panel on Plant Health performed a pest categorisation of Neomaskellia andropogonis (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae), the sugarcane whitefly, for the EU territory.
N. andropogonis is a tropical and subtropical species that originates in south central Asia and has recently established in Iran and Iraq. N. andropogonis is not listed in Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/2072.
It is oligophagous on Poaceae and most frequently reported on sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum), on which it has become an important emerging pest in western Iran. The larvae feed on the foliage and stalks and can cause a reduction of photosynthesis rate and growth. In heavy infestations, the sugar purity and content are greatly decreased. Honeydew egested by feeding N. andropogonis larvae can promote the growth of black sooty mould over the host. No evidence was found indicating economic damage to other grasses. The ornamental grass hosts Andropogon sp. and Imperata cylindrica are ornamental grasses in the subfamily Panicoideae and are exempt from a general prohibition on Poaceae entering the EU and together with fresh sugarcane, provide potential pathways for entry.
An estimated threshold for development from egg to adult of 7.2°C with approximately 500 degree days required for a generation suggests that climatic conditions, together with the availability of grass hosts in the southern EU, would support establishment.
Adults disperse naturally by flying and all stages can be moved over long distances by the trade of infested plant material. The pest has the potential to impact sugarcane production in Portugal and Spain.
N. andropogonis satisfies all of the criteria that are within the remit of EFSA to assess for it to be regarded as a potential Union quarantine pest. However, this conclusion has high uncertainties regarding the likelihood of entry and the magnitude of potential impact within the EU as the insect is only recorded as an economically important pest in Iran, and its host range is poorly known and understood.
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