Pest attack leaves Mandya coconut growers in distress

take a beating: Axed coconut trees at a sawmill in Pandavapura taluk, Mandya district.

Coconut growers of the district are a worried lot as thousands of trees are affected by black-headed caterpillar and coconut mites. This is forcing the farmers to cut the trees and sell them to sawmills.

Around 45,000 coconut trees have dried up totally in the district, according to Horticulture department officials, while more than 15,000 trees have already been felled in villages of Pandavapura, KR Pet, Nagamangala and Maddur taluks. Coconut trees, which were once providing financial support to the farmers, are now sold to sawmills for small amounts.

The Horticulture department is conducting a survey and has announced a compensation of Rs 400 per tree, for the 45,000 trees that have been destroyed by pests.

Ningegowda, a farmer in Kyathanahalli, Pandavapura taluk, said that the coconut growers are under loss since four years, as there was no adequate water. "Now, there is sufficient water, but, the pest attack has left them worried. The affected trees are felled and supplied to sawmills to earn at least a few thousands," he explained.

According to sources in the Horticulture department, the pest attack was first noticed in the neighbouring Tamil Nadu, around two years ago. "As the black-headed caterpillar feeds on the roots, the leaves start wilting. White mites too attack the trees, making the fronds to drop," they said.

'Don't cut trees'

Meanwhile, the officials of the Horticulture department have advised the farmers not to cut the trees and have been distributing handbills to educate them. They have advised the farmers to spray neem oil thrice a week. "The pest attack is due to the shortage of water and manure and also due to lack of maintenance. The white mites and caterpillars do not live for long, so it is easy to eradicate them," said, Raju, Deputy Director for Horticulture.

He advised the farmers not to fell the trees. "As soon as they observe the fronds drying up, they should spray neem oil. In an effort to create awareness among the farmers, the department will hold special drives from Maddur taluk. Farmers can seek advise and guidance from the department officials. Sufficient water and manure will protect the trees," Raju added.

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Pest attack leaves Mandya coconut growers in distress

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