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Biocontrol of pests raises yields, helps cut costsqrcode

Nov. 20, 2013

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Nov. 20, 2013
‘Biocontrol’ of agricultural pests, which relies on insects, is ecologically friendly and does not harm the production of crops or the soil. While biocontrol has existed in nature for ages, scientists now claim they can control the characteristics of the pest-eating bio agents. The National Bureau of Agriculturally Important Insects (NBAII), which comes under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), has bred more than 30,000 insects that can be used as biocontrol agents.

Dr Abraham Verghese, Director of NBAII, told Express that there was high demand for pesticide-free, organic farm produce in India and overseas. As a result, the only safe option for pest control available to farmers was biocontrol methods.

He was participating at an international workshop on mass rearing and quality assurance of biocontrol agents here.

Dr Verghese provided the example of Hebbal Lake to highlight the use of biocontrol methods. The lake was infested with water hyacinths till about five-six years ago. The pests were done away with by introducing weevils into the lake, which fed on the plants. The weevils have to be reintroduced every few years. Dr Verghese also gave the example of a caterpillar that fed on coconut leaves, which could not be killed by conventional insecticide sprays. These were killed by introducing biocontrol agents. Rice borers have also been kept under control by similar agents.

“An acre of land with paddy may need biocontrol agents worth only Rs 150. The farmer increases his yield and reduces his costs of production by using this method,” Dr Verghese explained.

Dr K R M Bhanu, assistant general manager, Research Pheromones, Bio-Control Research Laboratories (BCRL)- Pest Control (India), said, “We spray synthetic pheromones that insects secrete to attract others for mating and foraging. The odours attract them to the traps and we can catch these pests.”

NBAII does not want to be seen to be resting on its laurels. The institute is currently training entrepreneurs on rearing biocontrol agents and farmers on their methods of use.

 “We want the agents to be mass produced so that all farmers can apply them, “ Dr Verghese said.

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