DoE Committee to Fight Whiteflies

DoE Committee to Fight WhitefliesDoE Committee to Fight Whiteflies

Following the swarm of silver lead whiteflies, Tehran’s Department of Environment (DoE) has formed a task force to combat the pests, ILNA reported. While whiteflies pose no threat to human health, they tend to irritate people on the streets by constantly flying over and around commuters.

The task force comprises members of Tehran Parks and Green Space Organization, the environment department of Tehran Municipality, agriculture Jihad ministry, Iranian Research Institute of Plant Protection, and the Plant Protection Organization, according to the head of Tehran DoE Mohammad Hossein Bazgir, whose department leads the task force.

The silver leaf whitefly (Bemisia tabaci), also informally referred to as ‘sweet potato’ fly, is one of several whitefly species infamous for their devastating impact on farmlands.

“The main aim of the task force is to develop guidelines to control the pest problem and devise ways to reduce its impact,” Bazgir said, adding that scientists are still working to find a solution to completely eradicate the problem.

Whiteflies are sap feeders that reduce the overall vigor of plants with their feeding.  As whitefly infestations become severe, they cause plants to yellow and lose their leaves prematurely. 

They also produce large amounts of sticky, sugary honeydew, which in turn is colonized by black sooty mold, reducing the attractiveness and marketability of whitefly-infested crops.

Even worse, whiteflies are vectors that transmit over a hundred different plant viruses.

Yellow sticky cards are an effective tool for monitoring whitefly populations, and the Tehran Municipality has already started placing these cards around the city.

According to Bazgir, the municipality and the agriculture ministry are obliged to address the issue and take necessary measures. “The DoE has a supervisory role and lacks executive authority.”

Even though the precise source of the pest problem is still unknown, experts believe they may have piggybacked to Tehran on imported ornamental plants. Additionally, declining precipitation and rising heat exacerbate the problem.