May 2018 News

First Record Of Invasive Aphid In Kashmir: Report

5 May 2018
Kashmir Monitor


Srinagar: Brown peach aphid, an insect that attacks temperate fruit trees, has been recorded in Kashmir for the first time, a media report Saturday claimed. The Hindu reported that the spread of the aphid could affect the local economy which is dependant on fruit trees to a large extent. 'Scientists who documented the presence of the aphid in their recent paper published in Journal of Threatened Taxa,' the report said. Aphids feed on the saps of plants, attacking plant tissues that transport food to all different plant parts. The brown peach aphid Pterochloroides persicae is a notorious pest of peach and almond trees in the Mediterranean regions. In India, the aphid was recorded for the first time in the 1970s from Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. Now, almost 40 years later, it has resurfaced in the Kashmir Valley, find scientists at Srinagar's Central Institute of Temperate Horticulture (CITH). Dr. G. Mahendiran and his team noticed the aphid in early 2013 in small patches near their institute. They collected live specimens and monitored them in the institute's peach and almond plantations between 2014 and 2016. The tiny (nearly 3 mm long) aphids thrived best during the months of April, May, September and October. Though they were most 'prolific' between 20 and 22 degrees Celsius, write the scientists, the brown-and-white patched insects were active in temperatures as low as 3 degrees C. Peach trees were the preferred plants. Nymphs (baby aphids that hatch out of eggs) attain sexual maturity in a month and begin to produce more aphids. A single growing season in a year supported as many as six to eight such generations of aphids. However, there is some good news too. Several combinations and concentrations of natural chemicals including neem plant extracts and lavender oil can help control aphid numbers. The scientists also note that while the blood-red ant extracted honey dew from the aphid for food, wasps and several other parasites also preyed on the aphids. 'But if the infestation is not controlled, the invasive aphid can spread fast,' said CITH researcher Shahid Ali Akbar, one of the co-authors of the study. 'It could definitely affect the economy of the Kashmir Valley.' According to Akbar, the pest could have come with plants imported from other countries; the scientists are taking steps to ensure that the aphids do not spread along with the saplings they supply to several Indian states.

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