Monday, April 12, 2021

Grasshoppers feast on crops in Wayanad

Grasshoppers feast on crops in Wayanad

Swarms of grasshoppers, disconcertingly resembling locusts, have descended upon parts of Pulpally in Wayanad, leaving farmers anxious about a possible damage to their crops.

However, scientists at the Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS) at Ambalavayal, who have since been getting numerous phone calls from farmers, said the damage had been noticed at its initial stage.

It was found that attacks by nymphs of spotted grasshoppers or coffee grasshoppers had triggered panic among farmers.

Though the insect mainly feeds on teak plants at Pulpally, especially in the Veliyambam area, it also attacks coffee, banana and mango plants, Dr. K. Ajith Kumar, associate director, research, RARS, told The Hindu.

The insect, found gregariously in the area, belong to Pyrgomorphidae locust family, Dr. Ajith Kumar said, adding that it was not the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria, which causes panic in the northeast.

The adult insects lay up to 80 eggs in egg pods during September-November, and hatching occurs usually in February-March. Owing to changes in climate, nymphal emergence has taken place, said Seena R. Subhagan, assistant professor, department of entomology, RARS.

As the soil may have remained unattended during the lockdown, the conditions would have favoured the safe emergence and survival of nymphs, leading to a gregarious phase, she observed.

“Some farmers have noticed small congregations of grasshoppers on plants for the past two years, but the number of insects went up considerably this year,” she said.

It is suspected that climatic variations have caused the sudden spurt in insect population, Dr. Ajith Kumar said, stressing the need for examining the phenomenon.

M.V. Sreerekha, assistant professor, department of horticulture, and Julie I. Elizabeth, assistant professor, department of plant pathology, RARS, were the other members of the team who studied the phenomenon.

They inspected the fields and suggested control measures to farmers.

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