For a safe and bounty harvest

For a safe and bounty harvest

miscellany

For a safe and bounty harvest

Little did H R Chandre Gowda, a progressive farmer in Lakshmipura village in Chikkamagaluru district, know that a fruit itself would come to the rescue of other fruits, when he started pomegranate cultivation in his 10-acre farm three years ago.

A crop that can be grown in all seasons, pomegranate invariably requires chemical inputs in the form of pesticides and insecticides at different stages of its growth. For those whose harvest time is between July and October in the Chikkamagaluru region, the threat of fruit-sucker moths (fruit-piercing moth) looms large. “The moth is nocturnal and becomes active between 7 pm to 11 pm. It sucks out all the juice from the ripening fruits by making multiple holes in them with its needle-like sting,” says Harish B S, a scientist. The estimated crop loss from this pest is 30% and it varies from region to region.

One day, Chandre Gowda chanced upon a fruit-sucker moth on a fig plant near his house. He noticed that the moth was sucking the juice of fig just as it did for pomegranate. After close observation, he realised that the moth gets attracted to ripe fruits with a foul or strong smell. An idea struck him then: he decided to use figs as baits for these moths. Since the quantity of figs produced from one fig tree he had was not sufficient, he decided to replace them with bananas. After several trials, he found that the cavendish banana variety is most suitable for this purpose.  
The fruit traps — cavendish banana  hung in fruit net bags to the pomegranate plants — are placed at a distance of 15 feet at the boundary of the farm. This avoids  moths to a great extent. Inside the farm, the traps are hung at a distance of 30 feet from each other. The moths, sized two to  three inches, get attracted to the fruit and when they land on the fruits to suck the juice, they are collected and killed manually.

Chandre Gowda has hired three people specifically for this activity and he pays them handsomely too. The moths attack ripening fruits and the season normally spans for one month. The banana baits need to be replaced with fresh fruits once in four days. Even waste fruits can be utilised for these fruit traps to save on costs. Other fruits like jackfruit can also be used as baits. The total cost, including labour and fruit purchase, comes up to Rs 50,000 in one season, which is considerably less than the price of one tonne fruit. Last year, Chandre Gowda got a yield of 60 tonnes and the damage from the pest didn’t cross 10 kg. Under normal circumstances, the damage would have been to the tune of 18 tonnes. 

“Though the pest can be controlled using chemicals, its impact on consumer’s  health is big. Since this moth attacks the fruit at the ripening stage, the fruit might have chemical residues. Of late, farmers have realised the impact of chemical inputs on environment and people, and are keen to grow healthy food,” explains Chandre Gowda. Pomegranate farmers from different regions of the State have successfully followed this eco-friendly method.

Different types of fruit-sucking moths, including the common fruit-piercing moth, damage the crop at the ripening stage. The moth also poses a threat to citrus fruits like orange. In North Karnataka, the moth problem is more from October to December.

A M Nadaf, entomologist, Horticulture Research and Extension Station, Vijayapura, says, “The farmers in North Karnataka’s pomegranate-growing belt follow various methods including burning tyres, bagging of fruits and applying insecticides to keep their fruits safe. Some of the methods are expensive while some cause harm to human and environmental health. Integrated pest management practices are a must to save pomegranate crop.

If farmers do not take enough care, the use of chemicals might affect the health of consumers. They should ensure that the fruit doesn’t have any chemical residues and is safe for consumption. If a farmer can control the moth using indigenous technological knowhow, like the one Chandre Gowda developed, it is a positive step.”
One can contact Chandre Gowda on 9448665589.

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