Whitefly pest attack affects coconut cultivation in Coimbatore, farmers seek govt help
The whitefly sucks out the sap from under the leaves, and the host plant loses all its water and nutrients. The honeydew excreted by the fly attracts ants and increases fungus growth around the affect
COIMBATORE: Farmers have urged the State government to come up with a solution to control whitefly (Rugose Spiralling Whitefly) pest attack on coconut trees in Pollachi and Anaimalai taluks.
The whitefly sucks out the sap from under the leaves, and the host plant loses all its water and nutrients. The honeydew excreted by the fly attracts ants and increases fungus growth around the affected plant. This sooty mould also hits the sapling's photosynthetic efficiency.
KS Balachandran, a coconut farmer from Kanjampatti in Pollachi, said, "I cultivated coconut crop for 35 acres in my 50-acre farmland. But now, not a single tree is spared by the whitefly attack. The agriculture department and Tamil Nadu Agriculture University suggested using chemical pesticides to kill the insects, but the chemicals would affect growth and yield permanently, so we avoid them."
He said the whitefly attack has reduced the weight of copra from 500 gram to 350-400 gram recently.
"Whitefly attack has been persisting throughout the year. However, it intensified from February. We were also suggested to spray water on the coconut leaves apart from chemicals. But, this is not possible for all the trees. As of now, I tied a yellow sheet to the tree laced with castor oil 2 feet above the ground for ten trees to control the attack. Yet, the insects begin attacking another farm nearby," he added.
TA Krishnasamy, president of the United Coconut Growers Association of South India, urged the government to take steps to save coconut trees in the region.
"Even after a farmer sprays pesticides, the whiteflies return after the effect subsides. The whiteflies attack other farmlands where chemicals have not been used. So, as a combined effort, all the farmers have to spray pesticides at the same time to plug the attacks better. Only a government direction can make this happen," he said.