Bến Tre Province uses a drone to spray pesticides on coconut groves affected by the coconut black–headed caterpillar in Bình Đại District last August. — VNA/VNS Photo Huỳnh Phúc Hậu
BẾN TRE — The Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Bến Tre has tightened measures to control the coconut black-headed caterpillar, a pest that has been damaging the coconut crop since appearing for the first time last July.
Bến Tre, the country’s largest coconut producer, has seen around 65ha of coconut groves affected by the leaf-eating pest in Mỏ Cày Bắc, Bình Đại, Châu Thành, Mỏ Cày Nam, and Chợ Lách districts and Bến Tre City, with their yields reduced by 80-100 per cent.
The pest lives in coconut trees in all forms, from larva to moth, causing considerable damage to the trees. The worm eats the leaves and even the surface of immature coconuts, causing leaf scorch and immature nuts to fall off.
The province’s Plant Protection and Cultivation Sub-department has instructed farmers to use chemical and biological measures to control the pest.
In August the province used drones to spray pesticides including bio-pesticides on more than 30ha of affected coconut groves in Bình Đại District’s Phú Long Commune.
Speaking at a recent meeting, Nguyễn Văn Dũng, deputy head of the sub-department, said there are difficulties in the process of controlling the pest such as farmers not strictly following temporary prevention measures.
They used highly toxic pesticides instead, causing an adverse impact on the health of people and the environment, he said.
To control the pest, farmers should cut off pest-affected leaves and destroy them by burning or burying in water to prevent its spreading, he said.
If coconut trees are too old or are severely affected by the pest, farmers should cut them down and destroy them, he said.
In groves that have creatures like the parasitoid Asecodes hispinarum and the Asian weaver ant that predate on the coconut black-headed caterpillar, farmers should use less toxic pesticides to protect the former, he said.
Huỳnh Quang Đức, deputy director of the province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said coconut farmers should prioritise biological measures to reduce the adverse impacts on predatory species, people’s health and the environment.
The department is working with the HCM City Agriculture and Forestry University to study the damage caused by the coconut black – headed caterpillar and biological measures against it.
The caterpillar also damages coconut crops in other countries like Sri Lanka, India and Thailand, according to the sub-department.
Bến Tre has more than 72,000ha under coconut, or 42.5 per cent of the country’s total. — VNS