A team of researchers from Kasaragod has discovered the Eriophyid mite, which damages amaranth (red cheera), a common leafy vegetable grown across the country.

Researchers said that such an infestation of amaranth was first reported in India. The mite causes severe malformation of the shoot, making it fibrous and reducing yield. The researchers, Dr KM Sreekumar, Professor and Head, Department of Entomology, College of Agriculture, Padanekkad; Dr Srinivasa Nagappa and N. Sivamoorthy, project manager, All India Network, Agricultural Acarology, found the mite in amaranth. Dr Sreekumar said extensive cultivation of amaranth was common in the coastal areas of Kanhangad in Kasaragod district from October to the second week of June. However, farmers have known about the problem of Eriophyid mite infestation in crops for three years, he said. He observed that these plants exhibited folded deformation and malformation of tender leaves, severe reduction in leaf size and stunting. In addition, the farmers also found it difficult to harvest.

Explaining the study, Dr Sreekumar said Eriophyid mites, numbered 8 to 28, were noticed in each plant. As a result, the number of periodic harvests of tender shoots from April to June has been reduced by 50 percent.

Farmers were severely affected as the products were sold at a very low price. He said an observational trial to contain the pest immediately after a harvest reduced symptoms of mite damage almost completely for at least 15 days, when new growth would be ready for the next harvest, a- he declared.

Although Eriophyid mites were reported in Tanzania in 1992, this is the first report of amaranth mite infestation in the country.

He called on farmers to contact 9447691821 for help if they saw growth or stagnation in amaranth cultivation.