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About White Fly

Context:

Recently, there has been a rise in the number of white fly attacks on cotton in various states like Punjab and Rajasthan.

Relevance:

GS III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About White Fly
  2. How does it spread?
  3. What are the challenges?

About White Fly

  • By eating on the underside of the leaf and dispersing diseases like Cotton Leaf Curl Virus, whiteflies are a significant pest of cotton that reduce output.
  • They consume the leaf sap and exude fluid onto the leaves, where a black fungus develops. This weakens the plant by interfering with photosynthesis, the process by which it produces food.

How does it spread?

  • The first reported invasive spiralling whitefly (Aleurodicus dispersus) is now distributed throughout India.
  • Similarly, the rugose spiralling whitefly (Aleurodicus rugioperculatus) which was reported in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu in 2016 has now spread throughout the country.
  • Aleurodicus dispersus and Aleurodicus rugioperculatus have been reported on over 320 and 40 plant species, respectively.
  • Most of the whitefly species are native to the Caribbean islands or Central America.
Reasons for spread:
  • The ability of all invasive whiteflies to consume a variety of foods and their prolific mating habits have led to an expansion in their host range (produces a large number offsprings).
  • The spread of many kinds and their subsequent development into invasive species have been facilitated by the expansion in plant importation, globalisation, and human movement.

What are the challenges?

  • Whiteflies harm crops and lower production yields. The rugose spiralling whitefly affects about 1.35 lakh hectares of coconut and oil palm in India.
  • Other invasive whiteflies were also discovered to be expanding their host range on valuable plant species, particularly oil palm, coconut, banana, mango, guava, sapota, false bird of paradise, and butterfly palms, as well as significant medicinal plants.
  • Using commercially available synthetic pesticides to control whiteflies has proven to be challenging.
Control:
  • Currently, they are managed by naturally existing insect predators, parasitoids (which act as pests’ natural enemies and provide biological management of pests in greenhouses and agriculture fields), and entomopathogenic fungi (fungi that can kill insects).

-Source: Down to Earth


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