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Insect Devastates 9 Lakh Acres of Chilli Crop in South India; Experts Blame Pesticide Use

Ayushi Raina
Ayushi Raina
Insect Devastates 9 Lakh Acres of Chilli Crop

A new insect species is causing havoc on the chilli crop in many southern Indian states. Thrips Parvispinous, an invasive insect from Indonesia was first observed in 2015 is now spreading aggressively, impacting nearly 9 lakh acres of chilli crop in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. 

According to scientists at Prof. Jayashankar, Telangana State Agricultural University, the infestation is also found in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka"This species has infected all chilli-growing areas.  The infestation is so extensive that we found 20-25 insects on each bud or flower," said Dr. R Jagadeeshwar, the university's Director of Research. Officials in both states stated that they were awaiting final recommendations from scientists from the Institute of Horticulture Research in Bengaluru, who had just visited both states. 

A team of scientists from Prof Jayashankar University and IIHR in Bengaluru also visited various farms and advised farmers on how to combat the infestation. 

"The insect has evolved resistance due to the overuse of pesticides. It has spread to vegetable crops, including drumstick trees, and has been detected in some places on cotton plants. This season's chilli crop quality and yield would suffer," Dr Jagadeeshwar said. 

Farmers in Telangana's Warangal and Khammam, and Andhra Pradesh's GunturPrakasam, and Anantapur, have uprooted the infested crop and sown alternative crops such as Bengal gram, according to Horticulture Department officials in both states. 

According to Dr. T V K Singhformer Dean of Agriculture at Prof Jayashankar University, the infestation began in the first week of November. "Initially, it was misidentified for mites, and farmers employed wrong pesticides, resulting in the flare-up. In 2015, a new species of Thrips came in papaya from Indonesia. So far, no systematic study has been conducted on it. It will take a lot of research to gain control over the infestation," he added. 

Thrips infestation was widespread in all of the areas visited, according to Telangana Deputy Director of Horticulture K Venugopal, who accompanied the team of scientists. "We also observed mite infestations and viral infections. Farmers were applying fungicides and insecticides in excess, without realizing that they were helping the insect," he explained. 

Thrips have ravaged the chilli crop in Guntur, Prakasam, Krishna, and Kurnool districts in Andhra Pradesh, according to Additional Director (Horticulture) M Venkateshwarlu

"The situation was acute in Guntur, but we started a campaign as early as November’s first week, advising farmers not to apply too much pesticide and recommending the use of neem oil and neem cakes. We know very little about this new invasive species, and further research is needed," he added. 

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