SAHIWAL, April 6: Wheat crop in the district is facing a threat of attack by aphid locally known as Kala Tela which is already affecting scattered patches in the fields and can assume alarming proportions if the present wet spell persists.
Experts fear if the inclement weather continues for a week or so the aphid can become a serious threat for the wheat crop sown on 0.38 million acres in the district.
They say aphid has been attacking the late sown wheat and other crops like potato and maize in the district for last many years, but this time it is becoming alarming for the growers because it thrives in wet and humid weather conditions.
The wheat sown in December-January is more prone to aphid attack than that in October-November. “Humid and cold weather is ideal for aphid growth and it attacks the crop while it is ripening,” says District Officer (Agriculture) Muhammad Farooq, adding that the pest, however, can not survive under sunny and hot weather conditions.
He told this scribe that a mild aphid attack was being observed for the last ten days in scattered patches in many wheat fields in the district. These patches, he added, were found under shade of trees and along the water courses, the reason being a high humidity level at such spots.
He said even the mild aphid attack could reduce the produce by 10 to 15 per cent per acre.
A local pesticide wholesaler says farmers may identify the pest attack if they find yellow plants and leaves covered with blackish substance. The pest ultimately hampers growth of plant at its ripening stage, he adds.
“The Agriculture Department does not recommend any pesticide spray because of the nature of the crop and also because it kills the beneficial insects too which in some cases naturally curtail the aphid,” says EDO (Agriculture) Liaquat Ali.
He suggests powerful water spray to check the pest and says mostly farmers use a traditional method called “Rasi Pherna” where two people holding ends of a long rope moves from one corner to the other in the field to make the crop pest-free.
Ijazul Hasan, senior sales manger of a multinational pesticide company, says the situation is still not alarming, but more light rains can accelerate the pest growth.