How Whiteflies are Damaging Crops in India?

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According to a study by ICAR– National Bureau of Agricultural Insect Resources, Invasive Whiteflies Species are increasing in India.

  • Whiteflies are sap-sucking insects. They are members of the insect family Aleyrodidae (order Homoptera). These insects become abundant during warm climates and are found on houseplants and in greenhouses.
  • Origin: Most of the whitefly species are native to the Caribbean islands or Central America.
  • India: Around eight types of whitefly species are found in India. The first invasive whitefly was reported from Kerala in 1995. These species are now distributed throughout India except Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Invasive Species: Whitefly species reduce the yield and also damage crops. Hence, they are considered as invasive species. These insects excrete sticky honeydew and cause the yellowing or death of leaves.
Key Findings of the study:
  • Expanding host range: Whitefly species are expanding their host range (Species on which they feed) on valuable plant species like coconut, banana, mango, sapota, guava, cashew, oil palm, and important medicinal plants.
  • Reason for expanding host range: The host range of all the whiteflies is increasing due to their polyphagous nature (ability to feed on various kinds of food) and prolific breeding.
  • Resistance to available insecticides: Whiteflies have also been difficult to control by using available synthetic insecticides.
  • Firstly, Monitoring of Whitefly Species: The administration should ensure continuous monitoring of the whitefly species, their host plants, and geographical expansion.
  • Secondly, Phytosanitary Measures: States should ensure stricter phytosanitary measures at relevant places to reduce the chances of incoming exotic species.
  • Thirdly, Awareness among citizens: The state should work towards increasing awareness among the public about the threat posed by invasive species. This will help reduce the chances of the public indulging in illegal or unintentional import of invasive species.
  • Fourthly, Biological Control Methods: As the whiteflies are getting difficult to control by using synthetic insecticides. Therefore, naturally occurring insect predators, parasitoids and entomopathogenic fungi (fungi that can kill insects) could be used as novel biological control of the invasive whiteflies.

Source: The Hindu

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