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Tomato-Loving Pest Could Destroy California Crop

KCBS_740 SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) -- Tomatoes are abundant at many farmer's markets at this time of the year, but a little pest could change that in the future.

There is growing concern about the South American tomato leaf miner, a tiny moth that was accidentally introduced in Spain in 2006 and has steadily moved closer and closer to the United States.

"The pest feeds on the leaves, the fruit, and the developing flower buds of the tomato. So, your tomato plant either loses all its photosynthetic surface on its leaves, so it can't make food to make fruit. It burrows into your fruit, where secondary pathogens come in, so you have rotting galleries inside. And when it feeds on the buds of the plant, the plant doesn't grow correctly, and it doesn't flower," Dr. Kris Godfrey, Associate Project Scientist with the Contained Research Facility at UC Davis told KCBS.

Godfrey has seen the damage the leaf miner can cause for farmers.

"In places like Spain, when it showed up in 2006, they had nearly 80 to 100-percent destruction of their tomato crop," Godfrey said.

Officials are hoping the public can help them keep track of where the pest is showing up.

"We want people to turn in samples to their local agricultural commission office to get them identified," Godfrey said.

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