A boon to farmers as it eliminates the use of pesticides and subsequent pollution

The introduction of imported parasitoids to combat the invasive mealy bug, which affects a range of crops in Tamil Nadu including papaya and tapioca, has turned into a boon to farmers by eliminating the use of pesticides and subsequent pollution. The Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore, which is supplying the parasitoids free of cost for agriculturalists, introduced the parasitoid at a farm in Chennakuppam panchayat in Vellore on Thursday.

Collector C. Rajendran released the parasitoid into the papaya farm in the presence of Registrar of TNAU P. Subbian.

According to a release, the papaya mealy bug - Paracoccus Marginatus - infestation was observed in Tamil Nadu in July 2008 in crops such as papaya, tapioca, cotton, red gram, sunflower and other vegetables, fruits, flower crops in Coimbatore district. However, it subsequently spread to other parts of the State.

Director, Centre for Plant Protection Studies at TNAU, E.I. Jonathan said in the release that the pest occurred in groups and sucks the sap of the plant resulting in total drying and wilting of the plant with complete crop failure. The extent of damage in the crops varied from 30 to 80 per cent. The mealy bug was a native of Mexico and was an invasive pest.

It was to effectively control the mealy bug population that the TNAU took initiatives to import parasitoids from foreign countries in collaboration with Indian Council for Agricultural Research, New Delhi.

Three species of papaya mealy bug parasitoids were imported from Puerto Rico through the United States Department of Agriculture in collaboration with National Bureau of Agriculturally Important Insects, ICAR, Bangalore.

It was released in the orchards of TNAU, Coimbatore on October 7, 2010 for the first time in the country, the release added.

“Earlier, farmers growing crops such as mulberry, papaya and tapioca had to spray pesticide once in 15 days.

After the introduction of the parasitoid, we advised them not to use any chemical.

The use of chemical pesticide to check the pest is only temporary.

The farmers cooperated with us. As a result, in the last four months the farmers did not undertake any pesticide application. By not spraying pesticide, Rs. 50 crore has been saved. It has also helped to prevent environment pollution,” Mr. Jonathan said.

TNAU has found the parasitoids promising as they were able to parasitise the mealy bugs. Mr. Rajendran said that so far, one lakh parasitoids have been introduced in affected crops in various districts of the State. He noted that it could control the papaya mealy bugs in four to five months.

The mass multiplication of parasitoids had been undertaken in seven agricultural colleges, 36 research stations and 14 Krishi Vigyan Kendras of TNAU located across the State, the release said.

  • Parasitoid introduced at farm in Chennakuppam panchayat
  • The bug's infestation was observed in Tamil Nadu during July 2008