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Going the eco-friendly way to control pests

The rainy season brings a slew of problems for fruit growers, who struggle to save their crops from infestation by pests. The application of insecticides is not very effective and also poses environmental hazards, leading to a negative impact on soil health. Amid these challenging circumstances, the adoption of various eco-friendly techniques for managing pests targeting fruit crops has emerged as a viable option among farmers across Punjab.



  • Updated At: Jul 18, 2022 07:32 AM (IST)
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Going the eco-friendly way to control pests

Bagging of guava fruit

Manav Mander

FRUIT cultivation faces a constant threat from insects. Several pests cause damage to fruit production, leading to a loss of yield. Among the pests that impede quality fruit production, fruit flies Bactrocera dorsalis and Bactrocera zonata can cause up to 100 per cent damage in the rainy season to the guava crop, 85 per cent (kinnow), 80 per cent (pear), 78 per cent (peach) and 30 per cent to mango as well as plum.

The application of insecticides is not much effective and also causes environmental hazards, leading to a negative impact on soil health. Amid this scenario, the adoption of eco-friendly techniques for managing insect-pests of fruit crops has emerged as a viable option among farmers across Punjab.

Prominent among these techniques developed by Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, are the fruit fly trap and the termite trap, while integrated management of snails in the citrus nursery, integrated pest management (IPM) of mango hoppers and bagging for fruit fly management in guava are also being practised.

Popular techniques for saving fruits

PAU fruit fly trap

Fruit fly trap

The PAU fruit fly trap is the most popular of these techniques. Till date, the university has sold around 52,000 PAU fruit fly traps, while 21,500 have been supplied to the fruit growers and government orchards for frontline demonstrations under the National Horticulture Mission (NHM) projects, thus covering an area of 4,600 acres under fruit fly traps. This trap is being adopted by more than 90 per cent of the fruit growers of Punjab, besides being used in kitchen gardens.


According to Dr Sandeep Singh, Senior Entomologist (Fruits) and team leader for developing these techniques, fruit growers of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are purchasing PAU fruit fly traps from the university’s Department of Fruit Science.

Eco-friendly management of fruit flies can be done by fixing PAU fruit fly traps at the rate of 16 traps/acre in the second week of April, first week of May, third week of May, first week of June, first week of July and second week of August, respectively. Traps can be re-charged after 30 days, if needed, and one trap costs around Rs 100. It is best suited for the management of male fruit flies in kinnow, guava, mango, pear, peach and plum.

“In the rainy season, guava suffer maximum infestation due to the carry-over of fruit flies from other early-ripening fruit crops — peach, pear, mango, litchi, plum, grapes, loquat, jamun, sapota, pomegranate, fig, banana and papaya — and from vegetable crops, especially cucumber. The fruit fly trap is the most effective and economical way of controlling the menace,” says Gurusewak Singh, a farmer from Malerkotla.


Termite trap

Termite trap

Termites in the fruit crop no longer bother farmers who use earthen pot-based traps. Eco-friendly management of termites can be done by burying gul (maize cobs without grains)-filled 24-holed earthen pots of 13-inch diameter with lid at the rate of 14 per acre in termite-infested orchards of pear, ber, peach, grape and amla during the first week of April and then in the first week of September. These pots should have their necks outside the soil surface. The pots should be removed from the soil after 20 days of installation and the termites collected should be destroyed by dipping in water containing a few drops of diesel.

A total of 4,578 termite traps have been supplied by PAU to the fruit growers and government orchards for frontline demonstrations under the NHM projects, covering 327 acres.

“I have been using termite traps for the past four years in my orchard. It is an eco-friendly technique as there is no pesticide residue in fruits, soil, plants and environment. The cost of fixing of earthen pots in the orchards is quite cheap (Rs 980/acre). A single pot has the capacity to trap more than 100,000 termites,” says Ravinderpal Singh.

Integrated management of snails in citrus nursery

In this technique, papaya leaves are spread in/around the nursery area to attract snails. Then, the snails are collected and put into a bucket containing salt water to kill them. Wet gunny bags are kept in the nursery area as snails try to hide under them.

IPM of mango hoppers

In this method of integrated pest management, the spray of PAU home-made neem extract and PAU home-made Dharek extract (5 litres per acre) is effective in reducing the population of hoppers in mango.

Fruit fly bagging

The mature green and hard fruits of guava should be covered with a biodegradable white-coloured non-woven bags of 9 inch x 6 inch from June-end to mid-July. For proper bagging of fruits, stapler or needle pins can be used. The bagged fruits should be harvested at the colour-break stage.


Polyphagous menace

Fruit flies Bactrocera dorsalis and Bactrocera zonata are polyphagous pests that damage various fruit crops and multiply profusely. The female adult fruit fly punctures the fruit at the colour-break stage and deposits its eggs below the epicarp. On hatching, the maggots feed on the soft pulp of the ripening fruits. The punctured portion start rotting and the fruit fall down prematurely. The duration of activity of the fruit flies on mango fruits is from the last week of May to the last week of July. These flies also attack peach, plum, kinnow and guava crops. Isolated orchards are less infested by fruit flies. The duo can cause up to 100 per cent damage in the rainy season to the guava crop, 85 per cent to kinnow, 80 per cent (pear), 78 per cent (peach) and 30 per cent to mango as well as plum.

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Cover crops more effective than insecticides for managing pests, study suggests

A cover crop planted in a farm field near Spring Mills, Pa.
A cover crop planted on a farm near Spring Mills, Pennsylvania, in March 2020. Researchers say their new study demonstrates that cover crops may be more effective in managing pests than applying insecticides. Credit: Michael Houtz, College of Agricultural Sciences. All Rights Reserved.EXPAND

MARCH 31, 2022

By Chuck Gill

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Promoting early season plant cover, primarily through the use of cover crops, can be more effective at reducing pest density and crop damage than insecticide applications, according to a Penn State-led team of researchers.

In a newly published study, the researchers suggest that the best pest management outcomes may occur when growers encourage biological control — in the form of pests’ natural enemies — by planting cover crops and avoiding broad-spectrum insecticides as much as possible.

The use of cover crops and other conservation-agriculture practices can help reduce erosion and nutrient loss, enhance soil health, and improve pest management, noted study co-author John Tooker, professor of entomology in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. Although the adoption of such methods has increased, he said, the use of pesticides continues to grow in the United States and globally, potentially killing nontarget, beneficial species and reversing pest-management gains from the use of conservation-agriculture tactics.

“Plant cover, such as cover crops, can provide habitat for populations of natural enemies of pests,” Tooker said. “Winter cover crops, for example, can harbor predator populations outside the growing season of the cash crop. Once the cover crop is killed to allow the growth of the cash crop, cover crop residues remain on the soil during the growing season and enhance habitat for predators.

“Studies have found that cover crops reduce insect pest outbreaks by increasing predator abundance, but to retain these benefits, it’s critical to protect these predatory species,” he said.

The goal of this study was to investigate how conservation-agriculture practices — cover crops, no-till planting and crop rotations — interact with two pest-management strategies that employ insecticides. These strategies are preventive pest management, in which growers plant seeds treated with systemic insecticide for the control of early-season pests; and integrated pest management, or IPM, an approach that involves scouting for pests and using insecticides only when pest numbers exceed economic thresholds, and then only when nonchemical tactics are ineffective.

A predatory ground beetle peeks out of its hole in a crop field
A predatory ground beetle peeks out of its hole in an experimental plot at Penn State’s Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center. These beetles were responsible for much of the predation observed during the study, but they are mostly nocturnal, the researchers noted. Credit: Elizabeth Rowen. All Rights Reserved.EXPAND

“We hypothesized that the increased early-season vegetative cover provided by winter- or spring-sown cover crops would benefit predator populations and increase their biological control potential,” said study lead author Elizabeth Rowen, a former doctoral candidate in Tooker’s lab who now is an assistant professor of entomology at West Virginia University.

“In contrast, we expected that preventive seed coatings, despite reducing the severity of early-season insect pests, would also reduce predator abundance and release noninsect pests such as slugs from biological control,” she said. “In addition, we thought that IPM would be equally effective as preventive seed coatings for managing pests, but with less disruption to the predator community and biological control.”

The researchers set out to examine these scenarios by establishing two experimental no-till fields at Penn State’s Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center to test the effects of pest management and planting small-grain cover crops over three years in soy-corn-soy and corn-soy-corn rotations. This experiment was part of a larger project investigating the interaction of pest management and cover crops on soil quality, weeds, insecticide movement and pest pressure.

The team divided each field into plots, with six treatments each replicated six times in each field over three years. While the crop species changed annually with the rotation, each plot received the same treatment each year. The scientists looked at three pest management strategies with and without a cover crop: preventive seed coatings, IPM, and no pest management.

For the IPM strategy, researchers scouted the IPM plots for insect pests and compared pest populations to economic thresholds to determine whether insecticide applications were needed. They used an insecticide — a single, in-furrow application of a granular pyrethroid — only in the second year of the study.

The researchers, who recently reported their results in Ecological Applications, found that using any insecticide provided some small reduction to plant damage in soybean, but no yield benefit. The findings suggested that, in corn, vegetative cover early in the season was key for reducing pest density and damage.

An unexpected result, the team said, was that the IPM strategy, which required just one insecticide application, was more disruptive to the predator community than preventive pest management, likely because the applied pyrethroid was more toxic to a wider range of arthropods than neonicotinoid seed coatings.

“With the single use of insecticide in the IPM treatment, nontarget effects persisted more than a year after application, without reducing plant damage or density of white grubs, the targeted pest,” Rowen said. “This pyrethroid also indirectly decreased soybean yield in IPM plots more than a year later, perhaps because of having fewer predators present to protect plants.”

This finding highlights the importance of choosing the most selective insecticide possible when chemical control is justified within an IPM strategy, Tooker explained.

The researchers concluded that planting cover crops and fostering natural-enemy populations protected corn and soy from damage and that promoting early season cover was more effective at reducing pest density and damage than either intervention-based strategy.

“But because cover crops can also leave cash crops vulnerable to some sporadic pest species, growers should be careful to select the best cover crop species for each situation and to scout regularly for early-season pests,” Rowen said. “In addition, maximizing the benefits of cover crops for biological control requires sparing use of insecticides, because preventive use of selective insecticides and reactive use of broad-spectrum insecticides both can reduce predator activity without guaranteeing pest control or greater crop yields.”

Other researchers contributing to the study were Kirsten Pearsons, former doctoral candidate in entomology, Penn State; Richard Smith, associate professor, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of New Hampshire; and Kyle Wickings, associate professor, Department of Entomology, Cornell University.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture supported this work.



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