TOBA TEK SINGH: The Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) in collaboration with the Agri Extension Institute (AEI) and UAF Entomology Department has launched a biocontrol agent to combat the parthenium weed, also called as famine weed, which is posing serious hazards to human and animal health, biodiversity, and food security in Pakistan.

Dr Ijaz Ashraf from AEI said that stem-boring weevils had been successfully released in the experimental agri fields at the UAF.

He said that parthenium is a highly destructive weed, crossing continents, and spreading rapidly in both rural and urban landscapes in the country. It not only causes severe allergic reactions in humans and livestock but may also harbor malaria-carrying mosquitoes, making its biological control a necessity.

CABI Deputy Director Abdul Rehman said that 500 stem-boring weevils (Listronotus steosipennis) were released to serve as a more sustainable approach to managing parthenium.

This was approved for release in 2021 after host range testing took place in Pakistan to determine its safe usage as a biological control agent to literally ‘nip parthenium in the bud.’

He said this breakthrough had been made possible through collaboration between CABI, Pakistan Agriculture Research Council, National Agriculture Research Council, UAF, and other universities at Swabi and Mardan, as well as integration with the “Plantwise Plus programme”.

Parthenium is native to tropical America and was accidentally introduced into several countries. In Pakistan, it now covers thousands of hectares of productive and rangeland, posing a huge economic burden.

He emphasized the importance of conducting host range testing on several species and varieties of important native and crop plants at CABI’s quarantine facility in Rawalpindi to ensure the weevil did not pose a risk to indigenous fauna.

The stem-boring weevil controls parthenium by laying its eggs primarily in the flowers where newly hatched larvae tunnel into the stem and continue to feed, eventually exiting at the base of the stem to pupate in the soil.

HELD: A man was arrested on Sunday in Jhang by Waryamwala police who allegedly amputated both hands of his son over ‘disobedience’. According to the police, Zulfiqar Ali Sial of Haveli Bahadur Shah forced his two other sons to overpower Muhammad Umair and cut his both hands with a sharp chopper.

FOG: A car and a van collided head-on on Shorkot Road near Chak 14 Canal bridge in Jhang on Sunday, resulting in three car riders of the same family being critically wounded.

Rescue 1122 shifted them to the Shorkot THQ hospital. They were identified as Muhammad Hassan, his wife Razia Bibi and a relative Musarrat Bibi.

ACTION: Faisalabad Additional Deputy Commissioner Headquarters Kashif Raza Awan on Saturday night confiscated food from five marquees for violating the one-dish rule in marriage halls.

The seized food was sent to welfare institutions. The halls were sealed for violating the Marriage Act.

The halls include Paradise Grand Marquee, Paradise Plus Marquee, and Silver Spoon, all located on Canal Road. Furthermore, Victorian Executive Marquee and Khayam Marquee, situated on Sargodha Road, were also penalized for violating the one-dish rule.

Also, the Faisalabad district administration announced on Sunday that, following the reduction in petroleum product prices, bus fares would be decreased. According to a press release, the fares for non-AC buses were reduced by five per cent, while AC bus fares saw a three per cent reduction.

STRIKE: The president of Faisalabad Waste Management Company’s (FWMC) Ittehad Labour Union, Ibrar Younis Sahutra, told a press conference on Sunday that all sanitary workers of the company and the municipal corporation would go on strike and stage a sit-in on Monday at Faisalabad District Council Chowk.

The strike is in protest against the failure of company officials to fulfill their promise of paying salaries before Dec 15.

Mr Sahutra said that with Christmas approaching, the workers had not been paid their salaries for November and December. He said that 90% of the 4600 FWMC employees are Christians, and the non-payment of salaries before Christmas has caused disappointment among them. Sahutra warned that officials would be held responsible if the protest led to a deterioration in law and order.

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2023

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