Tea planters' friend turns muga farmers' foe - Pesticides sprayed in nearby gardens are destroying large tracts of silkworms in Upper Assam

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By SMITA BHATTACHARYYA
  • Published 16.03.12
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Jorhat, March 15: Tea’s panacea is turning out to be silk’s poison, with farmers discovering that pesticides used to save tea bushes are killing precious silkworms.

Large swathes of silkworms were destroyed in Upper Assam by pesticides sprayed in nearby tea gardens.

Such has been the extent of damage that the Central Muga, Eri Research and Training Institute has decided to conduct a survey on the impact of these pesticides on silkworms.

The institute is also in touch with the Tocklai Experimental Station to work jointly to find a solution to the problem.

Baby Chetia, a muga silk farmer in Golaghat, said she had lost more than 10,000 muga silkworms last year after there was heavy spraying of pesticides in a nearby garden.

“Besides the usual uzi fly and flacherie infection, pesticides are proving to be another threat to the delicate muga silkworms,” she said.

The uzi fly lays eggs inside the muga silk larvae and the maggots when hatched feed on the body of the larvae.

The flacherie disease, on the other hand, is a bacterial infection which results in mass deaths of muga silkworm just before they start to weave the golden cocoons.

Chetia rued that a few muga farmers, tired of the low annual returns from silkworm rearing, had shifted to tea cultivation and had opened small tea gardens in the area.

In Titabor, muga cultivators Ritu Gogoi and Bipul Phukan also complained of the pesticide nemesis.

“It is especially during the jethua (May-June) and bhadon (August-September) seasons, that this threat maximises, as it is the peak tea season when rains and heat result in pest infection in gardens,” Phukan said.

Director of Central Muga, Eri Research and Training Institute, R.K. Rajan, said they were considering a proper survey of affected farms and collaborating with the Tocklai Experimental Station in this regard.

“The director of Tocklai Experimental Station, Mridul Hazarika, has been informed about the problem and we will soon be working to find a solution,” Rajan said.

He said farmers’ reluctance to stick to muga and shortage of 1 crore seed are telling on the silk industry.

He urged farmers to employ the latest scientific methods of farming and technology to increase yield.