8 May 2007


Insect threatens Eucalyptus

An insect, new to India, which is believed to have migrated from Australia, has started to damage large swathes of Eucalyptus plantations in South India. The insect is feared to pose a threat to an estimated 8,000,000 hectares (a hectare is 2.47 acres) of plantations. Eucalyptus is an important pulpwood species, which is widely used in paper and rayon industries. First reported in Malakampadin area in Tamil Nadu, the damage has now spread to neighbouring States of Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

The Eucalyptus tree was introduced to Tiruvannamalai District in recent times and is now commonly found in the immediate surrounds of the town of Tiruvannamalai.

A local plantation of young Eucalyptus trees

Authorities first noticed the menace when they found parts of Eucalyptus trees in Andhra Pradesh forests damaged due to the insect. The insect is of a group which lays eggs inside tree leaves and stems and blocks the sap flow to the tip of the plants, causing shoots to droop and thereby affecting normal growth.

In 2000, the infection was first reported in the Middle East and thereafter subsequently spread to Mediterranean countries and northern and eastern Africa. Though no specific pesticides are available to kill the tree insect, research suggests early treatment can halt damage. It is recommended that as soon as the insect problem is located, one should prune or cut off the parts that are affected and apply systemic pesticides, which will go inside the plant and kill the insect.

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