The dry season brings its own set of challenges for farmers every year. With the weather warming up and the lack of rain, crops can thrive more with the benefit of more sunlight. But this doesn’t just benefit the plant and farmers, the warmer weather during the dry season means an increased number of pests.
Pests that lay dormant or can’t survive during the rainy season will come out during the dry season. Especially during the first few weeks transitioning from rainy to dry season where the moisture leftover creates a more breeding area for pests and leading to the rapid growth of pest populations.
This rapid growth leads to an explosion of pests and poses a threat for crops such as rice and horticultural crops. Farmers will often see more pests such as rice white stemborer (Scirpophaga innotata) for rice crop and more of thrips for Indonesian household must-have spices, chili.
Types of pests for chili plants
A report from the Directorate of Processing and Marketing of Horticultural Products, Ministry of Agriculture said that chili consumption needs in Indonesia reach 254.670 tons per month as reported from okezone.com. With the high demand for chili, farmers need to look out for the types of pests looming over their crops during the dry season. Especially ones that act as a vector for viruses.
Like any other crop, plant lice become a common threat for chili plants during the dry season where there’s no rain to wash them off of the leaves. Aphids or “kutu daun” are one of the frequent visitors of chili plants. It poses a threat to the growth and production of chili plants by drinking on the sugary leaf water that causes the leaves to be wrinkled, yellowish, and twisted. Leave untreated then the plants can become stunted.
Another plant lice threat for chili plants is whiteflies or “kutu kebul”. The pierce from this small white insect can cause the plant to weaken and withered, therefore slowing down its growth and lessen yield. Its symptoms are necrotic spots on leaves due to damage to the leaf cells and tissue. They carry Begomovirus that threatens to lower 20 to 100 percent of yields with yellow leaf curl as the symptom.
Thrips are insects that are a common threat to chili plants. This insect has a brownish yellow color that moves fast. Not only is this insect feeding on the plants, but it can also carry the leaf curl virus. The virus can cause significant yield losses, it causes the chili plant to produce fewer, smaller, and deformed chili.
A more notorious threat to any horticultural plants including chili is caterpillars. The many types of caterpillars attack the chili fruits by making a hole in the wall of the chili fruits and eating them, making the number of chili produce lessen. Generally, they would attack the fruit when they not yet ripe or still green.
Plants that are hosts for pests and diseases in chili plants
A host plant is another plant that’s usually a place where pests hide, live, and grow. This plant can be in the form of weeds or other cultivated plants. Pest bearer host plant can also be a place where viruses cultivate and spread. Here are some weeds to look out for when planting chili
- Ageratum conyzoides (wedusan or babandotan weed) are a host for whiteflies and can cause yellow leaf curl virus in chili plants.
- Melastoma malabathricum (senggani weeds) are a host for whiteflies
- Physalis angulata (ciplukan weeds) are a host for whiteflies
- Borreria latifolia (kentangan weeds) are host for mites and whiteflies
- Trema orientalis (anggrung weeds) have a woody branch that attracts caterpillars and host whiteflies
Other horticultural plants such as tomatoes, oranges, and potatoes can also be a bearer for whiteflies and other pests. It is best to space out when planting multiple crops and clearing out the land around chili crops from weeds to minimize the risk of pest infestation. Even dried leaves on the ground can be a place for caterpillars to hide. Not only are these plant bearers of pests, but they can also spread viruses and threaten the overall growth of chili plants.
How to deal with chili plant pests
Knowing how to handle each pests threat can help mitigate the attack before it spreads out and ruins the whole crop. Here are a few recommendations on how to handle pest attacks.
- Dealing with aphids
Avoid gradually planting chili in close proximity for a long period. This is because pests are more prone to attacking younger plants. So, do crop rotations or clear the planting area for at least a month to break the pest cycle.
With how small aphids are, a spray of water on the leaf can drop them to the ground, but for more persistent ones insecticides with active agents such as fipronil, abamectin and diafenthiuron can also be used.
- Dealing whiteflies
As a vector for Begomovirus, a whiteflies infestation can hurt the yield of chili plants. To control the attacks from this pest, make sure that plants or weeds that could host whiteflies are removed from the area. For the already infected crops can be collected and burned to make sure that it doesn’t spread out.
Controlling the attacks as soon as possible can also be done by spraying solution of Teflubenzuron 50 EC, Permethrin 25 EC, Imidacloprid 200 SL, and Metidation on the bottom part of the leaves.
- Dealing with thrips
Methods for dealing with thrips are the same with aphids, with a difference in insecticide. For thrips, Agrimec, Pegasus, Demolish, Omite, Bamex, Samite or Mitac insecticide can be used.
- Dealing with caterpillars
Removing the caterpillars and plants that are already attacked by putting them into bags can be a way to avoid the use of an insecticide. But if needed a routine spray of Decis 2,5 EC 1 milliliter/liter can be done until the caterpillars are cleared.