City scientists win battle with pink bollworm

Scientists at IICT have hit the pink bollworm, a dreaded cotton pest, just where it hurts. A new technique, which uses pheromones released by female bollworms to confuse the male and thus deny him a chance at mating, has been proved successful in field trials. IICT is transferring the technology to the Telangana government to help cotton farmers here in the next cultivation season.

By Author  |  Published: 1st Jan 2017  1:00 amUpdated: 1st Jan 2017  8:39 am
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Hyderabad: The battle of wits between scientists and the pink bollworm, one of the most dreaded pests attacking the cotton crop in India, has seen city scientists developing a new, and successful, technique that confuses the male pest, prevents him from mating, and in turn, stops multiplication of bollworm population.

The technique, one of the three developed as part of the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology’s (IICT) Pheromone Application Technology, will be transferred to the Telangana government shortly, with the same to be used to help cotton farmers in the next season to fight the pink bollworm menace.

The trick, according to BV Subbareddy, Senior Principal Scientist, IICT, is all about utilizing gossyplure, a sex pheromone or chemical released by female pink bollworms into the air to attract male moths.

The pheromone is the main ingredient in a chemical solution put in traps in cotton fields, making the male believe his mate is somewhere near and thus confusing him. Any chance he had at mating or increasing his tribe is thus lost, he explains.

This PAT technique is not only effective in tackling pink bollworms, but will also help use of insect pheromones as pest management tools by coming up as an alternative to pesticides and genetically modified crops. Pink bollworms have already proved to be untouched by pesticides and have kept attacking stems, roots and fruit of cotton in various States, including Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra, Dr. Subbareddy says.

“This mating disruption PAT technique is cost effective, with the solution costing just Rs.6 and the entire pheromone trap costing below Rs.30. We need only 10 traps per acre,” he adds.

IICT, over the last five years, has conducted successful field trials in 100 acres each of cotton fields in Adilabad and Khammam, in Dhule of Maharashtra, and in 20,000 hectares across AP, Kerala, Odisha and Maharashtra as well.

The institute has already tied up with Nuzivid Seeds for commercialization of similar PAT techniques for various crops, apart from Gujarat Agro Industries Corporation for commercialization of the mating disruption technique.