Experts say the Leaf Miner is a recent import, most likely in the last 2-3 years
Shopian: The pest that had afflicted apple orchards in and around the government horticulture farm in Zainpora has been identified by SKUAST scientists, who have declared it as an invasive species, not local to Kashmir, of Leaf Miner insects. However, the experts continue to remain unsure of how and when this insect reached Kashmir.
A senior entomology scientist at SKUAST told Kashmir Reader that this pathogen was identified by a team of scientists and experts as a Leaf Miner. He said that some evidences of this insect in Kashmir was found last year but this year it had spread massively in many orchards in Zainpora area of Shopian.
Director of Horticulture in Kashmir, Ajaz Ahmad Bhat, had earlier told Kashmir Reader that this pathogen was found on rumex nepalensis, locally called Obij, in Imamsahib area of the same district some eight years ago. This year, he said, it had attacked apple trees for the first time.
Locals from the area said that the insect has created havoc on their lone source of income, horticulture. They said that their fruit this year has remained smaller in size, less in colour and crunch, because the insect shucked all the nutrients from leaves.
They said that their fruit this year has sold at Rs 300 to 400 lower than the usual price per quintal, which has meant heavy losses for them.
Muhammad Suban Mir, a resident of Zainpora area, said that the local horticulture department and district Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) is responsible for the huge spread of this insect as they failed to identify the insect on time or to inform the senior scientists on time.
Dr Malik Mukhtar, a senior entomologist with SKUAST, told Kashmir Reader that they have identified the insect and have advised remedial measure to the orchardists. “It is curable, provided the farmers follow advisories regularly. I can’t say that it is possible to wipe out this pathogen but if we keenly watch it, it can be prevented from spreading,” he said.
“It is an invasive insect, not local, and it seems it has reached here a couple of years or three years ago,” he added.
Khursheed Ahmad, another entomologist, had earlier told Kashmir Reader that most of the fungal, bacterial diseases and pathogens found in Kashmir are invasive species.
Many experts are raising questions that if the insect is invasive then how did it reach Kashmir. “For me it is clear that it has been brought either through import of fruit plants from other countries or by an individual who went for a visit to a European or some other Asian country. These things should be checked thoroughly or else some day they will bring a disease which could be disastrous for the Kashmir fruit industry,” an expert, wishing not to be named, said.
The Kashmir fruit industry, according to an unofficial assessment, has a turnover of about Rs 20,000 crore annually and half of Kashmir’s population is directly or indirectly dependent on it.