Not many know that brinjal, a commonly used vegetable, accounts for the highest use of insecticides among all the vegetables in the country. This is mainly because farmers have no option but to spray insecticides on a weekly basis 15 to 20 times in the six months of the crop life to save the yield as brinjal is highly susceptible to the “shoot and fruit borer” (leucinodes orbonalis) attack. This pest causes 30 to 100 per cent crop loss.
To end this problem, which is not only affecting human health and environment but also causing a huge drain on the farmers’ revenues in terms of crop losses and high costs of insecticides, the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR) has come out with a method of biological control of the pest.
Under this system, an insect parasite Trichogramma chilonis that predates on this deadly pest is mass produced and released into the brinjal fields in a systematic manner at regular intervals.
This method, which is not only eco-friendly but also cheaper and more effective than insecticides, has turned out to be a boon for farmers as it provides protection to the crop from the “shoot and fruit borer” pest without the use of insecticides, notes IIHR Director Amrik Singh Sidhu. According to him, it can result in savings of crores of rupees if a large number of brinjal farmers in the country opt for this method.
The biological method is so simple that it will be possible for any farmer to use it easily.
“We will give farmers a small paper card that will have 250 to 400 eggs of the predator parasite appearing like dots. All that the farmers will have to do is to tie them either to the plants or small poles in the field located at a distance of about 10 ft. The predator parasites get released from this and start preying on the pest,” says A. Krishnamoorthy, Principal Scientist and head of IIHR’s division of Entomology and Nematology, who headed the efforts to develop and test this biological method involving fellow entomologist Ganga Vishalakshi.
In all, it would require 10 to 15 lakh parasites over six months to handle the pests in one hectare of land in addition to two sprays of Bt, he points out. “A farmer will be able to save a minimum of Rs. 25,000 per hectare through biological method as the weekly cost of this method will be only Rs. 150 to 200 as against Rs. 1,500 to 2,000 of each weekly insecticide spray, including labour charge. The total savings would touch a minimum of Rs. 1 lakh a hectare coupled with an increase in crop yield,” he says.
This technology, which was developed in 1985, was introduced in the fields around the IIHR campus located in Hesaraghatta in 2008 after testing for efficiency and environmental impact in different locations of the country. However, efforts are now being made to popularise this in the interest of protecting environment and increasing revenues of farmers with financial assistance from NABARD and the Department of Biotechnology, which have pumped in Rs. 8 lakh each, he said.
For details on biological pest control, contact A. Krishnamoorthy on 94485 03867 or Ganga Vishalakshi on 94485 51630.