Leaf Eating Insect Attacking Coconut Trees in Kudla and USA?
Leaf Eating Caterpillar named Opisina Arenosella Attacking Coconut Trees in Kudla and Ullal Sankada Ache (USA)?
Mangaluru: On my way to Bekal Beach-Kasargod during the weekend, right along on both sides of the NH 66 stretch between Nethravati Bridge to Thokuttu, Kotekar and beyond I was surprised to see the majority of the coconut plantations (leaves) been destroyed/infested by a leaf eating Caterpillar named Opisina Arenosella. And to get more details on this plantation disaster I stopped by at Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK- Dakshina Kannada) inside the Fisheries College Campus on the outskirts of Mangaluru- and Dr Shivakumar Magada -Professor and Head -KVK and other department gave an elaborate explanation.
Even though officials and scientists from Karnataka and Kerala had come together at CPCRI, Kasargod recently to chalk out an action plan for management of coconut black headed leaf eating caterpillar outbreak in parts of Dakshina Kannada(DK) and Kasaragod districts, they are yet to find a solution. The sporadic outbreak of black headed caterpillar Opisina Arenosella (Walker on coconut) in Thokkottu-Ullal on city outskirts has been noticed for last few months. A preliminary survey conducted by CPCRI had revealed that more than 20000 coconut palms in about 3000 acres are infested.
The larvae extensively feed on chlorophyll of the leaves and leaving behind the galleries with fecal matter and one notices complete drying of leaves in affected trees. As the pest population shoots up during summer and dry weather, there is every chance of further spread of this pest if proper management strategies are not implemented at this stages, said KVK officials. Usually, when the rains start it can control the spread, but it doesn’t look like this time. In the meantime, CPCRI has initiated release of parasitoids in the affected area, frequent release and constant monitoring in coordination with KVK and horticulture department is essential to prevent its spread. An action plan for managing this pest has also been prepared.
It should be noted that the leaves eating Caterpillar increase when its predator Parasitoids decrease. There are plans to release nearly 100,000 individual parasitoids generated in Thumbay. which will be released on the coconut palms in the affected area in order to control the spread. It is learnt that the main reason for the farmers to ignore the issue, is their assumption that the trees are drying up due to lack of water, not realizing that it is, in fact, the caterpillars that are wreaking havoc. If the parasitoids are released periodically for the next two-few months, they can bring the outbreak under control. CPCRI, departments of agriculture and horticulture and KVK have taken steps to display flex banners informing farmers about the problem and the cure, said KVK officials.
Lawrence Pinto, an agriculturist near Ullal speaking to Team Mangalorean said, ” I have nearly 100 coconut trees, and now 98% of the trees are infested by these insects. I used to get over thousand of coconuts, now I hardly get 100 or 200 of them. Even though I have vegetables grown on my farm, but my income was from coconuts. I will have to opt for some other cultivation to earn my living”.
Raghu Poojary, yet another farmer in Kotekar said, ” I have never experienced such kind of coconut palm disaster in my last 40 years of agriculture business. The concerned authorities and the government are not doing much research in controlling the spread of this disease- If they don’t take action quickly, chances are that it may spread to a larger area. Forget about other areas, over 1000 farmers in Mangaluru only have lost hundreds of coconut trees to these leaf eating insects. A survey has indicated that 65% of the infested trees have reached their final stage and there are fears that many more trees will perish in the nearest future”.