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Eco-friendly pest management measures needed: TNAU VC

Staff Reporter
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Key speech: Vice-Chancellor of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University P. Murugesa Boopathi speaking at the inauguration of a winter school for plant protection scientists in Coimbatore recently.
Key speech: Vice-Chancellor of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University P. Murugesa Boopathi speaking at the inauguration of a winter school for plant protection scientists in Coimbatore recently.

Due to awareness on food and environmental safety, the market for bio-pesticides is growing rapidly worldwide, P. Murugesa Boopathi, Vice-Chancellor of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), said here recently. The consumption increased from 219 tonnes in 1996-97 to 683 tonnes in 2000-01.

During the same period, the consumption of chemical pesticides decreased from 56,114 tonnes to 43,584 tonnes,” he added.

Inaugurating a 21-day winter school for 22 plant protection scientists on “Harvesting the Potential of Bio-Pesticides against Pests and Diseases: Its Implications in Sustainable Crop Production,” Mr. Boopathi said that in India crops were affected by over 200 major pests, 100 plant diseases, many other weeds and pests.

“Approximately, 30 per cent of crop yield worth Rs. 5,000 crore is lost on account of pests and diseases. Per hectare consumption of pesticides is low in India with 480 gms an hectare as against the world average of 500 gms an hectare. However, in irrigated conditions, indiscriminate pesticide sprays are reported especially in commercial crops like cauliflower, brinjal, chilli and lady's finger,” the Vice-Chancellor said.

As a result of this, TNAU had introduced the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system even as early as the 1970's. The key advantages included safety to mammals and other non-target organisms, environment compatibility and target specificity.

He said that bio-pesticides accounted for 2.89 per cent of the total pesticide market in 2005, while it was only 0.2 per cent during 2000.

The share was expected to reach five per cent by 2012. The overall growth rate was estimated to swell to 10 per cent in the next five years.

Citing the case of papaya mealy bug in papaya and cassava, the Vice-Chancellor said its control posed a big challenge to TNAU scientists. Since, chemical control measures were found to be less effective, bio-control methods were opted for obtaining best results. He elaborated on the three parasitoids that were launched by the university recently for this purpose.

E.I. Jonathan, Director, Centre for Plant Protection Studies, TNAU, said that nearly 40 bio-pesticides had been commercially produced and were used in Sweden, Germany, Israel, Russia and the United States for plant disease management.

He added that TNAU had identified native strains of pseudomonas and bacillus subtilis which were found to be effective against nematode disease complex in banana, cabbage, cauliflower, bell pepper and vegetable crops.

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