People, Environment

Foolproof Plan to Combat Whiteflies in 2017

Tehran Municipality, which has been tasked with combating whiteflies, must allocate a budget for the purpose
Trees across Tehran are wrapped in sticky yellow papers that attract and trap whiteflies. (Photo: Kian Sharifi)Trees across Tehran are wrapped in sticky yellow papers that attract and trap whiteflies. (Photo: Kian Sharifi)

A comprehensive plan that might give Tehran its best chance at effectively combating the whitefly will be finalized before the summer of 2017.

Speaking at a meeting late last week to discuss the status of the swarm of whiteflies in the sprawling capital city, Isa Farhadi, the governor of Tehran County, said the plan will be ready for execution by the end of the current Iranian year that ends on March 20, 2017.

“The Department of Environment and Ministry of Agriculture helped prepare the plan,” he said.

Whiteflies have been a nuisance for Tehran’s residents every summer for the past few years, although they do not pose any health risks to humans.

Up until August, the number of whiteflies was at its lowest ever since they first swarmed across Tehran three years ago and Tehran Municipality was credited for keeping whiteflies at bay. However, the insects staged a swift comeback.

Quoting Farhadi, IRNA reports that their population has seen the biggest rise in districts 6 and 11, although their numbers are nowhere near where they were in the past.

“We expect their numbers to drop, as the weather cools down and autumn sets in,” he added.

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

Whiteflies 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.

These flies transmit over a hundred plant viruses, but the genus found in Tehran—called Aleuroclava, is a newly-discovered type that does not carry plant viruses.

Farhadi said the municipality, which is tasked with implementing the plan, must allocate a budget for the purpose.

While the precise source of the pest problem is still unknown, some have attributed their rise to global warming, while others have suggested that the bugs may have piggybacked to Tehran on imported plants or fruit.

Experts say the lack of a natural predator and flora favored by the insects has helped them thrive in Tehran.

To control their population without endangering public health, the organization began employing a method known as integrated pest management about a year ago.

The University of California, a leader in IPM, defines the method as an eco-friendly strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation and modification of cultural practices.