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Agronomist, Bob Ronald (Landmark) has reported leafhoppers (Family: Cicadellidae) causing feeding damage to some early sown wheat paddocks north of Corowa, in the Riverina district of New South Wales. Although it is difficult to estimate leafhopper numbers, Bob says they can be easily observed feeding on plants. Leafhoppers suck sap, resulting in damage of fine pale dots in a patterned ‘wriggly’ or ‘zigzag’ line, which Bob reports was observed within the affected crops. 

Adult leafhoppers are approximately 2-3mm in length, and vary in colour depending on species and life stage. They may be yellow, green, brown to dark grey, and are typically elongated and wedge-shaped. Wings are held roof-like over the body at rest. They are very active and jump readily or move sideways when disturbed. Nymphs are usually smaller in size and wingless. There are several species of leafhoppers found in broad-acre crops that are pests of varying degrees. These include the lucerne leafhopper (Austrasca alfalfae), spotted leafhopper (Austroagallia torrida) and the common brown leafhopper (Orosius argentatus). Leafhoppers can be mistaken for aphids. Click here for images of leafhoppers and additional information.

Leafhoppers attack a variety of crops, including lucerne, legumes and cereals. Numbers tend to build up in spring with peak risk periods in summer and autumn. Most species go through several generations per year and can vector important plant diseases including Australian lucerne yellows disease, cereal chlorotic mottle rhabdovirus and phytoplasma. Leafhoppers attack all crop stages but are particularly damaging to slow growing seedling crops. Well watered, rigorously growing crops can usually tolerate damage. Researcher, Piotr Trebicki (Vic DPI), says leafhoppers are unlikely to cause significant problems in southern areas over the next few months. Piotr suspects numbers will likely decline over winter months and says control is unlikely to be required at this time of year. Leafhoppers can be sampled with a sweep net and/or looking for signs of their distinctive feeding damage.

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