BENGALURU: The Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, established by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR-IIHR) recently developed ‘light trap’, a method to kill or get rid of a relatively unknown pest called Tuta Absoluta, that affects tomatoes.
Studies were conducted in a tomato polyhouse and the method proved successful in trapping insects. Tuta Absoluta is a South American moth that rapidly began spreading in India in 2014. It can lead to loss of 100 per cent yield of tomatoes.
“When we conducted studies, we found that these insects get attracted to the colour yellow. We designed a system where an incandescent light bulb is placed above the plant to attract both male and female insects. Soap water or water containing pesticide is placed at the bottom. Alternatively, a suction is placed with a mesh below, instead of the soapy water bowl. The insects get attracted to the light, hit the surface, lose balance and fall into the mesh or bowl,” said Dr V Sridhar, principal scientist and secretary, Division of Entomology and Nematology, IIHR.
“We applied for a patent a few days ago but have already shared the technology with farmers from across the country,” Sridhar said, adding, “The same technology can be used in open conditions with a few modifications. For one acre, four or five light traps are enough. Tuta is more active from 7-11pm. The light-cum-suction trap is being patented. Suction mechanism enhances the trapping efficiency of adult insects.”
Though tomato is the main host, Tuta can also attack other hosts, like potato, eggplant, tobacco etc. Young larvae mine into tomato leaves, apical buds, stalks or fruits. Feeding results in blotches and pinholes on fruit which are generally covered with the frass (excrement of larvae). In one to two months, the technology will be commercially available. This method is part of a larger Integrated Pest Management (IPM) module developed by the institute.
“We have been popularising the technology among farmers by training them in it. We’ve had farmers from Kolar, Andhra Pradesh border, Maharashtra and other states as well. As this is an emerging insect, not many farmers are aware of it. It can multiply in lakhs within one week. This can cut down cost and affect chemical sprays used by farmers,” said another scientist from the institute.