National Institute of Plant Health Management (NIPHM)

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Insists farmers to have natural predators on the farmland to safeguard the crop from pest attack

“Predators are farmers’ soldiers,” says Dr. K. Vijaya Lakshmi, Director, Plant Health Management Division at National Institute of Plant Health Management (NIPHM). “About 20-30% of the total yield loss is caused by both field and storage insect pests. The management of the insect pests is necessary to ensure food security. The indiscriminate use of insecticides and fertilizers had resulted in wide spread environmental pollution and destruction of agro-eco system for promotion of environmentally sustainable plant health management, biological control of crop pests offers valuable solution especially for control of crop pests. The use of bio-agents in the field requires knowledge on identification of crop pests and natural enemies as both are insects.”

Predators in the farmland are important group of natural enemies. They are present along with the crop pests in the field. They feed on number of crop pests and are playing a major role in the reduction of insect population. As predators protect or reduce the incidence of crop pests in farmer’s field, they are termed as farmer’s soldiers such as Coccinellid beetles in vegetable ecosystem, Spiders in rice ecosystem and so on. Other than predators, parasitoids and pathogens are also playing important role in causing reduction of insect pests in crop fields.

Speaking on predators useful for farmers, Dr. Vijay Lakshmi explains, “Biological control mainly deals with the use of parasitoids, pathogens and predators for the management of insect pests. The most important advantage of using predatory insects in insect-pest control is the requirement of large number of preys as food to complete their life cycle. Predators are considered as general feeders and will feed on all stages of the prey. Both immature and adult stages of the predators are actively involved in the insect control.”

As predators are not host specific, it can be used against a wide range of insect pests in different crops. The identification of insect pest has to be done before suggesting the particular insect predator.

When asked on identifying the farm predators best of its advantage in the farm, she says, “The predatory insects can be mass multiplied in the laboratory and can be released to the field before the pest population build up in the field. National Institute of Plant Health Management (NIPHM), Hyderabad is organizing various training programs for the agricultural officers and farmers on the mass multiplication of different predators like Coccinellids, Reduviid bugs etc. and the method of releasing them under field conditions. The release of predatory insects in the field will keep the pest population below the level that can cause damage to crops.”
Usually the predators are not harmful to human beings. Their mouth parts are modified to catch and kill the harmful pests except very few predatory bugs whose bites may cause some irritation.

Farmers must be conscious about when dealing with predators with respect to the time of release of the predators and the stage of the crop at which release has to be made are the important factors to be considered for effective management of insect pests. At the time of release of predators care must be taken not to spray the field with pesticides as the predators are highly susceptible to the pesticides than the crop pests.

Predators that have been proved really helpful in saving farmers crops are
Control of Cottony cushion scale, Iceryapurchasii by predatory Vedalia beetle, Rodaliacardinalis (Coleoptera:Coccinellidae)
Control of mealy bugs using Cryptolaemusmontrouzieri (Coleoptera:Coccinellidae)
Control of coconut leaf eating caterpillar by Parasitic complex
Control of papaya mealy bug by Acerophagouspapaye

Sharing the future plans she says, “More emphasis on eco-friendly pest management programmes, development of low cost on-farm production technologies for the mass multiplication of beneficial insects and transfer of technology to the farmers.”

“Biocontrol agents are playing important role in Biointensive Insect Pest Management Programmes. Hence awareness has to be made among the farmers on the use of biocontrol agents for the management of crop pests. The use of chemical insecticides has to be brought down for a healthy future,” she concludes.

Dr. K. Vijaya Lakshmi has done M.Sc. Ag. (Entomology) and Ph.D (Entomology). She has wide experience in teaching, research and extension in the management of crop pests through various bio-intensive approaches.

Contact details:
National Institute of Plant Health Management (NIPHM)
Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare Govt. of India, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Rajendranagar, Hyderabad - 500 030
Phone: 040-24015932; M: 9948099640
Email: dirphmniphm-ap@nic.in
Web: http://niphm.gov.in/phment.html
 

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