|Coconut trees infested by the coconut black–headed caterpillar in Bến Tre Province. — VNA/VNS Photo Trần Thị Thu Hiền|
BẾN TRE — The Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Bến Tre has basically controlled the spread of the coconut black – headed caterpillar after local authorities and farmers took intensive measures to destroy it.
In July last year, the country’s largest coconut-growing province reported the appearance of the pest for the first time on a total area of 2.4ha of coconut in Bình Đại District’s Phú Long Commune.
It eats leaves and the husk of immature coconuts, damaging the fruits and reducing yields.
It is endemic in countries like India, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
Some 393ha of coconut trees have been affected in the province so far, according to its Plant Protection and Cultivation Sub-department.
More than 100ha have been treated and many of the trees are recovering well.
The province has used pesticides including bio-pesticides to kill the pest, using drones to spray them on more than 30ha in Phú Long last August.
Huỳnh Quang Đức, deputy director of the province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the pest has been eradicated to a great extent in localities first affected by the pest such as Bình Đại and Châu Thành Districts and Bến Tre City.
Others are continuing to taking preventive measures, he said.
Trần Văn Cẩn of Châu Thành’s Hữu Định Commune has a 2,000sq.m coconut grove affected by the pest and he has sprayed pesticides.
It has not been damaged too much and has started to have shoots again and fruits, he said.
Võ Văn Nam, head of the sub-department, said the districts of Mỏ Cày Bắc, Mỏ Cày Nam, Châu Thành, and Bình Đại, and Bến Tre City have completed the first round of pesticide spraying.
The province has also cut down 4,659 severely damaged trees.
The HCM City University of Agriculture and Forestry and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development have released 150 pairs of ong kí sinh đùi to (Brachymeria sp), a parasitic wasp, on a 2ha grove in Mỏ Cày Bắc where pesticides have not been sprayed as a biological agent to control the pest.
The sub-department has trained local agriculture officials in breeding earwigs, another creature that preys on the caterpillar.
The province plans to increase the breeding of earwigs and release a total of 28,000 of them in affected groves this year.
The department will step up advocacy activities to encourage farmers to take proper measures to fight the pest.
For instance, in groves in which ong kí sinh đùi to and earwigs have been released, farmers should not spray pesticides.
Bến Tre has more than 72,000ha under coconut, or more than 42 per cent of the country’s total. — VNS