Tomato moth, or tuta absoluta destroying crops in Majorca | J. Socies


The tomato moth, which is also known as the tuta absoluta, is wreaking havoc in the Majorcan countryside yet again, especially around Sineu.

It was first detected in Majorca in 2006 in Castelló de la Plana and in Ibiza in 2007. By 2008 the tuta had destroyed a mountain of tomato crops.

In recent years, its presence has been more controlled, but the moths started to multiply again at the beginning of last summer, for two reasons; Winter temperatures in Majorca are higher than usual so the tuta is not being killed off by cold weather and it's also becoming more resistant to insecticides.

Farmers say the tuta is already violently attacking tomato plantations and they fear the situation will get much worse in the next few months.

Jaume Pocoví from Unió de Pagesos is using biotechnological control (diffusers of sexual confusion) and alternative ecological products to try to combat the pest.

"The situation is especially worrying in greenhouse plantations where the cycle is not broken and the insect has great reproductive potential," he says.

The tuta is rampant throughout the Mediterranean basin and is now one of the biggest threats to cultivation.

The Unió de Pagesos and the General Directorate of Agriculture are both recommending that tomato plants be destroyed as soon as the fruit has been picked.

"Once production is over the plants must be burned or buried, to prevent the moth from spreading," insists Andreu Joan, Head of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Last December, he attended an International meeting during which the different strategies against tomato pests and diseases were analysed and says simple control strategies just don’t work.

Six farms in Pla de Sant Jordi are now being studied and chemicals and biotechnological controls (sexual confusion) methods are being used to try to kill off the tuta.

Tomato production is one of the most important horticultural crops in the Balearic Islands, with 366 hectares and producing more than 8,700 tonnes of tomatoes a year, according to Government data.