Detection, control measures and impact study for Epitrix in Belgium

  • Ebrahimi, Negin (Researcher)
  • Maes, Martine, (Former Project Supervisor)
  • Casteels, Hans, (Former Project Manager)

    Project Details


    Main research question/goal
    The DEPITRIM project focuses on Epitrix flea beetles, which are very small beetles that pose a potential new threat to potato growing. From 2015 to 2016, an extensive monitoring campaign has already been set up to map the presence (occurrence, host plants) of the different Epitrix species and related flea beetles in our country, with special attention to non-native Epitrix species.

    Via the import of potatoes from Portugal and Spain, there is a risk of introducing Epitrix cucumeris and Epitrix papa into Belgium. Both beetles, originally from America, have recently been established in southern Europe. The larvae of these exotic flea beetles produce superficial feeding tunnels in the skin of potato tubers, resulting in quality loss. Little is known about the likelihood of introducing Epitrix spp. via adhering soil on imported potatoes and about the occurrence of the native species, their life cycle and control measures. Moreover, this project also focuses on the identification of these very small beetles to species level.

    Research approach
    The following research aspects will be covered: (1) development of morphological and molecular techniques for identifying native and non-native Epitrix species and morphologically similar flea beetles, (2) mapping the current distribution of (native) Epitrix species and related potato flea beetles, (3) scientific research on the biology of Epitrix species occurring in Belgium, (4) assess the introduction and establishment potential of exotic Epitrix species in Belgium and (5) formulate recommendations regarding phytosanitary control measures and control strategies for plant damaging Epitrix species.

    At the end of the project, monitoring at the potato importing companies illustrated that, for potato tubers coming from infected regions in Portugal and Spain, there is a low risk of importing non-native Epitrix spp. into Belgium. Still, alertness is needed to prevent the introduction and establishment of exotic Epitrix species in our country. Therefore, introduction and establishment risk maps were generated. The intensive monitoring in the field has shown that 2 native Epitrix species occur in Belgium, Epitrix pubescens and Epitrix atropae, but neither of the species has been established in our potato fields. Decision documents were drawn up with recommendations for potato traders and FASFC controllers concerning the management of exotic Epitrix spp. after detection. These documents contain information on the life cycle, introduction pathways, morphological identification/differentiation of Epitrix spp. and their look-a-likes, damage symptoms and management.

    Effective start/end date1/01/1531/12/16