The ICAR-National Bureau of Agricultural Insect Resources, Bengaluru’s scientists first recorded the highly polyphagous Invasive Rugose Spiralling Whitefly (RSW), Aleurodicus rugioperculatus Martin on Coconut at Pollachi, Tamil Nadu in 2016. Subsequently, the pest rapidly spread to all coconut growing Districts in India causing extensive damage to the coconut plantations and panicked farmers resorted to spraying of chemical pesticides, but, this turned out to be a temporary fix.
The ICAR-NBAIR identified the aphelinid parasitoid Encarsia guadeloupae causing natural parasitism of 56% to 82%. The farmers were trained in identifying, mass production and distribution of the parasitoid and were strictly advised not to apply the chemical pesticides. The parasitoids multiplied rapidly and natural parasitism increased phenomenally, thus, preventing the severe outbreaks. The growers were advised to grow Banana and Canna indica as banker plants for conservation and augmentation of the parasitoid.
In a major breakthrough, the ICAR-NBAIR identified and developed a highly effective entomopathogenic fungus, Isaria fumosorosea (ICAR-NBAIR pfu-5) and field tested it in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Maharashtra. The fungus was effective in killing all the life stages of the pest. The pest mortality recorded was up to 91%.
Talc, rice grain and oil formulations were developed with long shelf life. The formulations of the pathogen were freely distributed to the affected farmers. Due to its high field efficacy, there is a huge demand for the biocontrol agent from the coconut farming community.The ICAR-NBAIR was successful in developing biocontrol strategies for the efficient management of the RSW within a short span of time. The economic analysis indicated that about Rs. 9,500 / ha crop protection cost and 900 ml of pesticides / ha are being currently saved.