Crops put to test to check pest-resistance

ICAR carrying out screening of certain varieties in neighbouring countries

November 11, 2019 12:26 am | Updated 12:26 am IST - HYDERABAD

In the wake of increasing pest and insect attacks on crops, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has initiated measures to screen some crop varieties in the neighbouring countries to test their resistance to new pest attacks so that they could be directly promoted for cultivation.

This was stated by Director General of ICAR Trilochan Mohapatra on the sidelines of the five-day 19th International Plant Protection Congress that took off here on Sunday. Their immediate focus was on the new pest and insect attacks in the neighbouring countries that were not native to the region, he said.

“We have sent some material to Bangladesh to screen them against the wheat blast, a fungal disease, that could impact the yield up to 100% and find their resistance traits so that we could promote such varieties in advance to prevent such attacks having the potential of spreading to neighbouring areas,” Dr. Mohapatra, said citing an example.

Wheat blast and millet blast were heard of only in Europe and US till recently while rice blast was known in India and neighbouring countries, he said adding some old pests were taking new shapes by developing resistance to pesticides. Finding new pest-resistant varieties and practising new integrated pest management methods was the only way ahead, he noted.

Pests sneaking in

Besides, the threat of news pests sneaking into the country through import of food crops was also looming as quarantine practices in the country’s airports and ports were not fool-proof and required to be strengthened, Dr. Mohapatra said. Identifying insects on weeds, improved surveillance and practising crop holidays were also effective methods to prevent pest attacks.

The ICAR Director-General also suggested the need for using bio-control agents instead of chemical pesticides and insecticides to reduce resistance among pests as they had the potential to affect the crop yield by 30% to 100%.

Commendable control

Director General of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, Peter Carberry said the efforts of Indian farmers and administration were commendable as they were able to control the fall armyworm attack in just 12 months after it was first noticed in the country.

Found first in Karnataka during the 2018-19 kharif season, it spread to 18 States, particularly to maize and sorghum crops, in no time but was controlled effectively by following integrated pest management practices, including some traditional ones, he noted.

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