SRINAGAR: Apple growers in several areas of south Kashmir are worried as a leaf minor pest has been infecting their orchards for the third consecutive year.
The farmers told that the pest has created havoc in their orchards for the past three years. “Wherever the pest was found in the last two years, produce was less shiny, smaller in size as this insect sucks all the nutrients from trees,” they said.
Muzaffar Ahmad, a fruit grower from the Dachnipora area of Anantnag, said the new pest is laying web layers from one branch to another and trunk and it even gets into fruit. “This pest whose number is in millions is sucking all nutrients from the tree due to which size of fruit remains small. It is damaging leaves and then trees as well,” he said.
He said that even people who visit their pest-affected orchards complain of allergies and other issues in their throat and nose.
The growers said it was mainly found in Shopian’s Zainapora first year but spread to Zainapora, Litter, Watchi, Yaripora, Lassipora, Tahab and Bijbehara areas the following year.
In the ongoing season, almost all orchardists in south Kashmir are complaining about the disease and currently, its greater impact is being found in the Dachnipora area of Anantnag.
The growers have sought the attention of the horticulture department and experts to prevent further damage. “Even after spraying insecticides several times, there is hardly any effect on this pest,” they said.
The orchards where the leaf miner was reported to have even complained about premature fruit fall besides impacting the quality and size of the fruit as well.
Senior scientists from Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Science and Technology-Kashmir (SKUAST-K) said that it is an invasive insect which has been identified as a “leaf miner” and probably reached here four years ago.
Leaf miners were reported some time ago but in the last two years their manifestation has increased yet their number is not too huge, the expert said, adding, “Most pathogens and fungal or bacterial diseases are invasive species and this leaf miner is curable if growers will follow advisories regularly.
He requested the farmers to cooperate with the horticulture department.
The horticulture experts stressed upon the collective approach in managing the pest and laid emphasis on spraying insecticides in all the affected orchards so that no residual population survives in an unsprayed orchard that may serve as inoculum for the next year.
They also put emphasis on survey and monitoring of the affected orchards, mass awareness about the pest among the farmers, proper sanitation in the vicinity of the orchard, collection of fallen leaves/ fruits/other debris and their subsequent destruction, scrapping of loose bark for exposing the pupa from tree trunks followed by its destruction and post-harvest spray with Quinalphos 25% EC on tree trunks @ 100 ml/ 100 litres of water—(KNO)