Initiatives of papain industry by private-public-farmer link-ages in classical biocontrol program for papaya mealybug in Tamil Nadu
A. Regupathy and R. Ayyasamy
Papaya cultivation for papain production is taken up by many progressive farmers in Tamil Nadu and facilitated by Senthil Papain and Food Products Ltd (SPFP), Coimbatore since 2004. The onslaught by the new invasive mealybug (PMB)-Paracoccus marginatus Williams and Granara de Willink) in 2006 caused major concern in papain production. The need for repeated application of insecticides and dearth of labour for application of insecticides made it difficult for the farmers to maintain the crop and forced many farmers to even abandon papaya crop cultivation altogether. Considering the drastic reduction in the wet latex supply, SPFP has taken up series of initiatives which are summarized in this paper. Initially, a survey made in more than 80 farmers holdings supplying wet latex to the industry to get the first hand information on the extent of mealy bug incidence. Secondly, it facilitated select cluster of papaya growers to meet the concerned authorities and scientists of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore to appraise them of the gravity of the situation and the need for getting effective biocontrol agent [Acerophagus papayae (Noyes and Schauff)] through ICAR-NBAII (National Bureau of Agriculturally Important Insects)-TNAU was emphasized as the existing biocontrol agents could not give relief. Later, when the exotic parasitoid was imported by NBAII, Bangalore, the papain industry wholeheartedly supported the training programmes by deploying its field staff in release and multiplication of the parasitoid. For enabling initial multiplication of the released parasitoids, farmers of heavily infested papaya fields were compensated for the yield loss to serve as field-mass-multiplication-strategy. Further, the farmers of neighbouring fields were encouraged and facilitated through thirteen field staff to take the bug infested leaves and fruits from parasite-released fields and dispersed in new fields. The effective mass-spreading of parasitoid was made thorough door-to-door contact and farmers were monitored not to take up spraying. The infested plant parts from infested fields were availed regularly by TNAU to facilitate mass production of parasitoid. This is a successful model of partnership of private sector-public institutions in biocontrol of the PMB biocontrol which has practically impacted through rise in quality and quantity of latex supply and area increase in papaya cultivation.