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Thursday, August 13, 2020

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Miguel Braganza

The coronavirus is doing to human beings what humans were threatening to do to insects after successfully eliminating the cheetah and endangering the existence of the lions and the tigers in the wild. Fortunately, insects outnumber human beings and multiply far more rapidly. It is not for nothing that sex education is euphemistically referred to as “talking about birds and the bees”. Did you know that only female bees can sting? The sting is actually a vestigial ovipositor that would have been used
to lay eggs.

And did you know that fruit flies lay eggs under the skin of maturing mangoes and that they hatch into maggots that you see wriggling in the ripe Hilario mango and Monserrate mangoes, especially in the rainy season? No? You are in good company; many farmers in Goa do not know how to identify the insect pest in its adult form and how to prevent it from laying eggs and destroying their crops. Identification of the rather innocent, and often pretty, butterflies, moths, and beetles is important.

Thousands of cashew trees are lost all over Goa due to the Cashew Shoot and Root Borer (CSRB). At `125 per kilogram of raw nuts, the loss from the death of a tree yielding 5 kilograms of nuts is `625 per year and about `12500 by the time a new graft can replace its yield in the next 20 years. The Fruit and Shoot Borer (FSB) is a problem in brinjal and tomato. The loss of rice crop can be no less if there is an attack of army worm, stem borer or even caseworm. The ‘holika’ would have attracted and killed some of the rice pests from the rabi or ‘vaingonn’ crop and the burning of the stubble before ploughing would kill some more. Light traps thereafter could help but that is not a practice in Goa.

Crop spacing is an important factor in the management of pests and closely planted crops tend to suffer more damage. In rice paddy, the SRI spacing of 25 x 25 centimetres is ideal. However, the mechanical transplanters are set for a closer spacing and it cannot be adjusted by the farmers. Hoppers that abound just above the waterline in the rice fields need to be monitored, especially during the month of Shravan and preventive action should be taken before taking a break during the Ganesh Chaturthi festivities.

Some microbial formulations for insect management like Metarhizium anisopliae and Beauveria bassiana are available in Goa but not yet popular in usage. Perhaps, field demonstrations of their usage – and efficacy – would be better than any other kind of training programme. The breakthrough in popularising effective microorganisms was achieved by Fr Inacio Almeida by demonstrations and making it available as activated EM-2. He may no longer be on this earth, but EM-2 is by far the most commonly used microbial formulation in Goa. Demonstrations to garden enthusiasts have worked for popularising the use of Trichoderma viride in the control of soil-borne pathogens. But organic agriculture still needs a
hand-holding in Goa.

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