Black-headed caterpillar disease affects the trees
The black-headed caterpillar disease has affected two-thirds of the 7,500 hectares of coconut area in the district and the farmers have initiated control measures. Most of the affected area is in Anakapalle, Mungapaka and S. Rayavaram mandals.
The crown of coconut tree would turn black and all its green leaves would be licked away by the black-headed caterpillar. The nuts would die young causing a huge loss to the coconut farmer.
Campaign is being conducted and demonstrations organised to explain to the farmers the ways to control the disease since all farmers in an area have to take the measures simultaneously as individual efforts would not be of any use since the black-headed caterpillar would spread from one tree to another and one area to another.
Horticultural officers were visiting every village to explain the control measures and two more campaigns would be conducted in the affected mandals on next Monday and Tuesday, Assistant Director of Horticulture G. Prabhakara Rao said on Thursday.
A pamphlet was also being brought out on control measures. The farmers were being told to take up root-feeding method, spraying or introduce bio-agents onto the affected trees which eat away the black-headed caterpillar.
Spraying of pesticide was not possible in case of long trees and root-feeding method (mixing a pesticide with water and tying the bagful of mixture to a root) could be adopted in such cases, he said. Rain would bring down the problem but right now hot summer heat was being experienced, he added.
The farmers were already on the job and the effect of the measures could be seen only when fresh leaves start sprouting after the caterpillar was killed, Mr. Prabhakara Rao said.
Campaign through television and oral publicity was first done by a scientist of District Agriculture Advisory Committee C.V. Rama Rao after he noticed the problem in the coconut groves in January. The District Collector is likely to participate in the programme to be held next week.