The tea mosquito bug is affecting tea production in both low and high elevation plantations, the United Planters Association of Southern India (UPASI) said.
UPASI president Jeffry Rebello said in a press release that the bug, which was earlier confined to low elevation areas, had spread to plantations in high elevation areas in the north and southern States.
“As the bug is spreading rapidly, it may result in heavy crop loss in all the tea districts of South India,” he said.
The affected tea estates are spending more than ₹12,000 per hectare on pesticide application every year. But the control is poor due to lack of effective molecules available to control the pest. Several pesticides were removed from the approved list of Plant Protection Code (PPC) of the Tea Board of India to make Indian teas free from harmful pesticides.
In the current PPC version, only seven pesticides are approved for use in south India. With limited choice of pesticides, tea growers are unable to achieve effective control of tea mosquito bug.
Mr. Rebello said the entomologists of UPASI Tea Research Foundation had been evaluating the pesticides available in the Indian market and approved by the Central Insecticide Board & Registration Committee in other crops cultivated in India. These pesticides are also approved for use by the European Union and have minimum residue levels for tea. The association has sought government approval for the use of these chemicals in tea plantations.
“Approval and extension of label claim for some effective molecules has to be considered immediately.” Further, national institutes such as National Bureau of Agricultural Insect Resources and Indian Institute of Horticultural Research should work jointly to address the pest issue faced by the tea industry, he said.