So what's the problem?
Cotton plays a pivotal role in Pakistan's economy. Cotton-related products account for almost 60% of national exports. Cotton makes up over 55% of domestic edible oil production, and provides raw materials to about 461 textile mills, 1200 ginning factories and about 6000 small oil producers. One-quarter of Pakistani farmers, of whom about 40 percent have household incomes below the poverty line, grow cotton. Pakistan is the fourth largest global cotton producer with nearly 10% of world output, and is third in cotton consumption. In view of the importance of cotton to livelihoods and the national economy, the Government of Pakistan supports all efforts which improve cotton yield. Insects and diseases are the main constraints in improvement of cotton yield.
Cotton is affected by a broad range of pests, including whitefly, thrips, jassids and bollworms. Mealy bug (Phenacoccus solenopsis) is a new pest of cotton, recorded for the first time in Pakistan in 2005 at Vehari in Punjab. It has now spread throughout the plains in Pakistan, and was held largely responsible for the loss of about 3 million bales of cotton in 2007. This insect attacks a wide range of plants and has invaded vegetables (including tomato, egg plant and okra), field crops (e.g. chilli, tobacco, wheat and fruit), ornamental plants and fodder crops, and is a serious threat to agriculture in Pakistan.
Insect pests in cotton are mainly controlled using insecticides. The failure of insecticides in controlling mealy bug led to consideration of biological control of mealy bug and other cotton pests in Pakistan. This led to development of this project, funded by the Pakistan Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock, on biological control-based integrated pest management (IPM) of all cotton pests, with the emphasis on mealy bug.
What is this project doing?
The project aimed at developing and implementing short term and long term biological control based IPM techniques for controlling major pests of cotton including mealy bugs. Methods used include investigating natural enemies of mealy bugs including predators and parasitoids, exploring the introduction of exotic natural enemies for mealy bug control, and developing and integrating options such as biopesticides and entomopathogenic nematodes with biological control for controlling pests on cotton.
Other activities of the project include collaborating with foreign institutes for collection, screening and supply of natural enemies in Pakistan, transferring IPM technology to farmers in collaboration with coordinating extension units, and establishing field reservoirs of natural enemies of the mealy bug for their mass production. Basic research on conservation of predators and parasitoids for controlling mealy bugs was also carried out.
Results so far
A predator known as the mealybug destroyer (Cryptolaemus montrouzeiri) was introduced from California for mealy bug control. Five natural enemy field reservoirs (NEFRs) were established in different parts of the country: two each at Multan (Punjab) and Tando Jam (Sindh) and one at Winder (Baluchistan), and capacity built for producing millions of parasitoids and predators from insect-infested plant refuse.
Over ten million adults of 13 species of predators, and the parasitoid Aenasius bambawalei, were reared at the NEFRs and released on farms. If these had been been purchased from private insectaries, they would have cost more than Rs 500 million each year: the benefit from the project to farmers is therefore already greater than the project investment. This service to farmers is being provided free of charge by Pakistan government funding, contributing to increased cotton yield on farms in 2009.
Address: Opposite 1-A, Data Gunj Baksh Road, Satellite Town, P.O. Box 8, Rawalpindi, Pakistan
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Aamir Humayun Malik
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Ashfaque Ahmed Nahiyoon
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Hakim Ali Sahito
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Ghulam Sarwar Solangi
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Muhammad Afzal Ghani Sulehria
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Hafiz Mahmood Ur Rehman
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