An invasive pest known as rugose whitefly has rapidly infested palm oil and coconut plantations in the State. The severity of the rugose whitefly infestation, which showed a downward trend in the State during December 2019, reappeared last month.
According to sources, it was first reported at Kadiyam in East Godavari district in the nursery gardens during late December 2016. The pest may have entered the State through infested coconut seedlings obtained from Kerala. The incidence and severity have reduced subsequently.
The dreaded whitefly has surfaced again and devoured the palm oil and coconut plantations in East and West Godavari, Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, and Visakhapatnam districts. The palm oil plantations are ‘more affected’ compared to coconut.
The yield is likely to come down by 15 to 20%. As part of the measures to control the spread of infestation, the government has been supplying Isaria Fumosorosea, a fungus and bio-pesticide, to farmers through the Horticulture Department.
The officials say that East and West Godavari districts had a severe incidence of the whitefly pest in 2019 in an area of 1,535 hectares of coconut and 2,461 hectares of palm oil. Later, the pest has reduced in both incidence and intensity. The pest infested in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, and Visakhapatnam in February 2019. The recent surveys indicate an increase in the area affected by the rugose whitefly in these districts, they say.
When contacted, AP Agriculture Mission vice-chairman M.V.S. Nagi Reddy says the spread of the pest in different places could be attributed mainly to the distribution of infested seedlings, as well as transporting vehicles. The pest could establish in coconut and oil palm plantations. The impact was more in oil palm.
The State government has initiated awareness campaign against the pest and the efforts are yielding results, he says.
The awareness programmes, including practical demonstrations, are being conducted at village level by the horticulture officials. Also, awareness meetings are being organised at mandal level by involving scientists from IIOPR(Pedavegi), Coconut Research Station (Ambajipet), and scientists from Dr. YSR Health University, Venkataramannagudem, he says.