(May 22) Though whiteflies have harmed some south Florida tomato fields, grower-shippers say the pest hasn’t caused big problems for this season’s crop.

At a recent growers’ field day, researchers with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Immokalee research center showed the damage whiteflies cause. The pests introduce the yellow leaf curl virus into tomatoes and stunt plant growth.

Robin Levine-Provent, office manager and saleswoman for tomato grower and packer Immokalee Produce Shippers Inc., Immokalee, said the pest can pose a big problem depending on the year.

“Towards the end of this spring, some fields were hurt worse than others,” she said. “The tomatoes don’t ripen in the center. It’s amazing what the bugs can do.”

Whiteflies were worse last year, Levine-Provent said, when the pest hit nearly every tomato field toward the end of the season.