Caterpillar attack on coconuts: awareness drive from today

Scientists of CPCRI and officials of Horticulture and Agriculture departments and Krishi Vigyan Kendra have decided to launch an awareness drive on February 1 for farmers about biological control of coconut black-headed leaf-eating caterpillars. As the outbreak of the pest is affecting coconut palms in Mangaluru and Kasargod district in Kerala greatly, the release of parasitoids will be demonstrated in the affected coconut gardens near Thokkottu.

A meeting with scientists of the CPCRI, Department of Horticulture (Karnataka), the officials of the state Agriculture Department (both Kerala and Karnataka) Krishi Vigyan Kendra of Kasargod and Dakshina Kannada held a meeting at CPCRI, Kasargod, on Monday, to prepare an action plan for management of the coconut black-headed leaf-eating caterpillar outbreak.

Sporadic outbreak of the attack of black-headed caterpillar, Opisina Arenosella Walker, on coconut trees in the Thokkottu-Ullal area in Mangaluru has been noticed in the last few months. The infested coconut palms are seen on both sides of the road from Ullal to Thokkottu. The preliminary survey conducted by the CPCRI has revealed that more than 2,000 coconut palms in the area are infested. The larvae extensively feed on the chlorophyll of the leaves and leave behind in the galleries faecal matter. Complete drying of leaves was also observed. As the pest population shoots up during summer and in dry weather, there is a chance of further spread of this pest if proper management strategies are not implemented at this stage. Coordination with the local KVKs, Horticulture Department and CPCRI is very essential to curtail damage due to this pest.

Dr Chandrika Mohan, principal scientist at CPCRI, explained about the biological control developed for management of pest. She stressed that biological control is highly successful in control of this pest and same has been demonstrated in the past. Dr Prathibha P S told that CPCRI has initiated the release of parasitoids in the affected area, however frequent release and constant monitoring in coordination with the KVK and the Horticulture Department is essential to prevent the further spread.

CPCRI director P Chowdappa, Dakshina Kannada deputy director for Horticulture Yogish H R, principal coordinator of Krishi Vigyan Kendra (Mangaluru) Shivakumar Magada attended the meeting.

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