Kerala farmer uses red ants to fight cashew bugs

With the aid from the State Planning Board in 2007, the duo began steps to prove that adoption of ant technology could control bug menace in cashew plants. For the next three years, Vasavan's 3.16 acres of land, where cashew plants grew, was converted into a lab.

The study found that the population of tea mosquito bugs as well as the damage inflicted were significantly lower in ant-treated plants for three years. By the fifth year of planting, ant-harboured plants produced four times higher yield compared to untreated plants. In ant-harboured plants, production extended up to June whereas in untreated plants, the yield was only up to April. The number of unproductive shoots was higher in the untreated plants compared to the ant-harboured plants in 2008 and 2009. The study, presented in the Kerala Science Congress in 2010, recommended that the red ant technology was a viable option for pest management in cashew.

Sreekumar said, "Grooming red ant habitats in cashew plants would help increase production by five times.''

Vasavan said human intervention is required at the initial stage to make ant colonies. Using a rope, cashew plants could be connected with the trees having ants' presence. Dried fish could be used as bait. Vasavan has been honoured by the government agencies for his innovative pest management system.

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