Mealybug feasts on papaya, mulberry

Maruthi Kumar, a farmer in Kundalagurki, said he was worried how to control the spread of the disease, which first appeared on the papaya plants and fruits and then affected the mulberry leaves.

About the insect
In response, Dr J Sukumar, scientist at the Karnataka State Sericulture Research and Development Centre, said the plants had been affected by paracoccus marginatus- commonly known as the papaya mealybug- which attacks the skin of the leaf, fruit or even stem.

Feeding on the sap, the insect then injects a toxic substance into the plant, which affects the growth of the plant, resulting in distortion and stunting, he added.

“The papaya mealybug is ash-coloured and the plants infected by the insect too turn white in colour. This affects the growth of the plants completely,” he added.

Contact with infected plants and fruits abets spread of the disease. “In addition, the disease spreads through cattle, sheep and goats that hover near the affected plants. Other insects that suck the toxin injected by the mealybug too help in spreading the disease. The infection can also be air-borne,” explained Sukumar.

‘Destroy wholesale’
Speaking about how to control the spread of the disease, the scientist said the affected mulberry or other crops should be cut and burnt large scale.

“No allied plants should be grown in the mulberry farms or groves. Most of all, papaya should not be grown with mulberry,” advised Sukumar to the farmers.

Implementation of drip irrigation or rain-gun irrigation can help in preventing spread of the infection. “The mealybug can be handled effectively through the use of chemical and organic methods too,” he added.

Silk assistant director M N Shankarappa, sericulture extension officer M C Chandrappa, Melur sericulture extension officer Satish, Jangamakote sericulture extension officer Thimmaraju and officers Muniraju and Thimmappa were present.

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