The Giant African Snail, an invasive species that has established itself in large parts of the State, could re-emerge from its dormant state and pose a greater menace before the next wet spell, a consultative workshop held here on Tuesday warned.
The molluscs that have gone into aestivation (period of hibernation to escape summer heat and dryness) could come out in a big way during the summer showers and go on to expand their area of distribution, according to T.V. Sajeev, Entomologist and Head, Forest Health division, Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI), Peechi.Threat to crops
Experts participating in the workshop cautioned against the use of chemicals to control the snail that has ravaged crops and posed a threat to native ecosystems in parts of the State. The workshop was organised by the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) and the Centre for Innovation in Science and Social Action.
Highlighting the potential ecological damage caused by chemicals, speakers called for organic methods to check the biological invasion. In his presentation, Mr. Sajeev suggested nicotine-based pesticides to keep a check on snail populations. He said studies had proved the efficacy of tobacco decoction to quell the marauding pest.
The KFRI, he said, had initiated efforts to develop a plant extract with molluscicidal activity. “It is important to ensure that the control agent used against a pest does not become a problem in itself,” he said.Avoid chemicals
Calling for steps to avoid chemical control methods, C.K. Peethambaran, Director (Agriculture), CISSA, said tobacco decoction and copper sulphate were good alternatives in the fight against the dreaded pest.
The workshop stressed the need for a watchdog system to maintain constant vigil against biological invasions. It recommended a coordinated effort by the departments of Agriculture, Health, Tourism and Forests to assess the potential dangers posed by the giant African snail. It also called for steps to equip local bodies to prevent the rapid spread of the species.
Addressing the speakers, Agriculture Minister K.P. Mohanan stressed the need for more research to quell the menace. P. Mara Pandian, Principal Secretary, Science and Technology, inaugurated the workshop. C.S. Yelakki, Director, Department of Environment and Climate Change; R.V. Varma, former chairman, Kerala State Biodiversity Board; spoke.