Exotic wasp from Africa released in Kerala to control pest affecting tapioca

A cassava mealybug-infested field.
| Photo Credit: Special arrangement

An exotic wasp imported from Africa has been released in Kerala to tackle a destructive mealybug which wreaks havoc on cassava (tapioca) crop. The parasitoid wasp is a natural enemy of the Phenacoccus manihoti, more commonly known as the ‘cassava mealybug.’

The ICAR-National Bureau of Agricultural Insect Resources (NBAIR), Bengaluru, in collaboration with ICAR-Central Tuber Crops Research Institute (CTCRI), Thiruvananthapuram, and the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU), released Anagyrus lopezi, the parasitoid wasp, for controlling the mealybug.

On a grant of limited-area release permit in Kerala by the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine and Storage (DPPQ&S), Government of India, the first field release of the parasitoid in Kerala was done at Madakkathara village in Thrissur recently. The cassava mealybug is ‘‘a devastating insect pest’‘ whose presence in India was first reported from Thrissur in 2020, the CTCRI said.

Imported from Benin

In 2021, the NBAIR imported the parasitoid from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) subcentre in Benin, Africa, and developed protocols for its mass production. The step was resorted to as large-scale releases of this exotic wasp in African countries and Thailand, Laos, and Indonesia were found to be successful as a biocontrol measure against the mealybug.

NBAIR director S.N. Sushil, CTCRI director G. Byju, and Mani Chellappan, Dean, College of Horticulture, KAU, Vellanikkara, distributed the parasitoids into cassava fields.

Madhu Subramanian, principal investigator, All India Coordinated Research Project on Biological Control, KAU, coordinated the programme. Madakkathara grama panchayat president Indira Mohan also was present at the programme.


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