Aceria kuko found on Lycium plants imported from China
In 2008, the NPPO of the United Kingdom became aware that large numbers of dormant ‘Goji’ plants (Lycium barbarum, Solanaceae) were being imported from China via mail order sales and distributed across the country. Berries of ‘Goji’ plants have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries but they are now subject to a significant commerce because of their nutrient richness and antioxidant qualities. However, it must be stressed that all plants for planting of Solanaceae (which thus include ‘Goji’ plants) are prohibited from being imported to the EU from all countries outside the Euro-Mediterranean areas because of the risk of introducing pests which may threaten cultivated Solanaceae (e.g. aubergine, capsicum, potato, tomato).
In August and September 2008, samples of severely distorted leaves of ‘Goji’ plants were received by the Central Science Laboratory (CSL) from 3 geographically distant parts of England. The cause of these leaf distortions was an eriophyid mite, Aceria kuko (Acari: Eriophyoidea). According to the literature, A. kuko is an Asian pest which feeds on Lycium chinense, Solanum nigrum and Capsicum annuum (all Solanaceae). A. kuko is known to occur in China, Japan, Republic of Korea and Taiwan. The imported ‘Goji’ plants were described as Lycium barbarum but it was not possible to confirm whether this was correct or whether they were the closely related Lycium chinense. The presence of A. kuko, together with the more compact habit of the plants suggested that they were L. chinense.
The infested plants were destroyed and further surveillance will be carried out by phytosanitary inspectors. Publicity and advice will continue to be given to attract attention of the general public to the risks presented by these illegal imports of Lycium spp. plants.
NPPO of the United Kingdom, 2008-10.