4 new farm pests found in Karnataka

Four new plant-eating insects that may turn out to be a potential threat to agriculture in several states have been found in Karnataka.

These pests, reported for the first time in India, could threaten economically important plants like mangoes, guavas, pepper, coffee, tea, potatoes and tomatoes.

Collectively known as coccids, they were spotted by researchers from the National Bureau of Agricultural Insect Resources, Bengaluru during an Indian Council of Agricultural Research-backed survey in 11 districts of Karnataka between 2012 and 2015.

“Though we are seeing these soft-scale insects for the first time, they are potential threats to agriculture in India. Two days ago, I spotted them on a different plant (Ashoka tree) in Maharashtra. We need to have more studies to find out their prevalence and their counter measures,” NBAIR scientist Sunil Joshi, who led the team, told DH.

One of the insects Kilifia acuminata was found on an ornamental fern in Bengaluru, but may threaten mango trees in future, as seen in Egypt. India ranks first among the world’s mango-producing countries, accounting for about 50% of mango production.

Southern states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have a large area under mango cultivation, and the pest can easily spread from Kerala to other states if left unchecked.

Reported from 35 countries around the world, it is also a threat to litchi, jamun, guava, pear, lemon and coffee plants.

Another insect called Protopulvinaria longivalvata was found on a pepper climber grown in a kitchen garden. The scientists describe it as a serious pest as the vine was killed by the insects.

Joshi and his colleagues reported in the journal Current Science that they collected this insect in large numbers from Vittal, Karnataka which is near the major pepper-growing area of Kasargod in Kerala.The insect can easily spread to such areas in Kerala and become a serious pest, they said.

The third species Trijuba oculata was also reported from Bengaluru and Mandya. It could be a threat to custard apple trees and grapevines in Karnataka and Maharashtra.

The fourth species Pulvinaria urbicola, Joshi said, was a notoriously destructive one that can be a big threat to potato, tomato, brinjal, bell pepper and capsicum. This too was spotted in Bengaluru, the scientists said in a separate paper in the journal Zootaxa.
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