Disease affects over 3,000 acre coconut grove in Kadur taluk

Yield has gone down by 50 pc due to Black Headed Caterpillar

Partial view of the coconut trees affected by black headed caterpillar at Balliganur. DH PHOTO

The saplings are drying due to the attack by the worm.  The problem is severe in Kodihalli, Devarahalli, Balliganur, Hogarehalli, Aladahalli, Mundre and Megarahatti villages and accordingly the yield has gone down by 50 per cent in these villages.

The disease was first noticed in the region about 4 years ago and Department of Horticulture asked the farmers to apply the same medicine used in case of ‘Nusi roga’. A grower named Shekar says that initially the medicines were effective enough to kill the worms and hence till last year the disease was under control but off late the worms have developed the power to feed on the same medicine and survive.

The farmers say that number of worms are less when the land is damp but once the land starts drying up, the worms increase and infest each and every sapling, feeding on the pulp of the sapling, thereby drying it and leaving it unproductive.

The pace at which the worms are growing and spreading has caused a sense of fear among the growers in Tarikere and Kadur taluk.

Department of Horticulture Joint Director Prasad speaking to Deccan Herald said that the disease can be controlled only if farmers work towards it unitedly. Efforts to control it individually will yield no result.

He said that there are two ways namely biological and chemical methods by which the worms can be nabbed. A parasite called ‘mephentis’ feeds on the back headed caterpillar and its larvae. This is an effective biological method to control the growth of the worms. Mephentis worms will be freely distributed to the farmers, he said and added that those wanting to follow chemical method can use monocrotophas in prescribed quantity. The chemical when applied to root of the tree in a particular method, gets absorbed by the root within 6 hours and is transmitted all over the tree and worms which feed on the leaves get killed.  

He said that the farmers should not pluck or use coconut from these trees till 2 months of application of the chemical. He said that the worms will decline naturally over a period of one or two years but the productivity of the affected trees will decline drastically and further the affected trees will take about one or two years to be healthy again.

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