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Scientists find shield for muga silkworms
Published on 30 Dec. 2010 12:16 AM IST
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Assam’s golden thread has found a saviour — a fungicide to check the deadly fungus beauveria bassiana that destroys the rare and delicate muga silkworm.
The chemical fungicide, named Lahdoi, has been developed by the Central Muga, Eri Research and Training Institute at Lahdoigarh in Jorhat district. It has been given a patent by the New Delhi-based National Research Development Corporation and is produced for farmers by the institute itself.
K. Das, a scientist at the institute, said the fungus was especially active during winter months when silk moths are in the larva stage.
“Low temperature and fog are the two conditions which make this fungus very active. Every year, a large numbers of muga larvae fall prey to a disease caused by this fungus. Last year and in the previous years, huge crops of muga silkworms were destroyed in Sivasagar and Lakhimpur districts, resulting in massive losses to the farmers. We were hard-pressed to find a solution that could tackle the disease. Lahdoi, which is a chemical formulation, has come as a boon to the farmers,” he said.
The muga silkworm, Antheraea Assamensis, which is unique to Assam, produces a golden-coloured thread, which is strong, durable and has anti-ultra-violet properties. The costliest silk in Assam, the muga has high export value and is a money-spinner for the industry. However, Das said, “It is especially sensitive and dies from environmental factors, from birds, pests and even flies, bacterial and fungal agents and even when chemicals are sprayed on paddy or tea in the vicinity.” Finding a chemical spray to control the air-borne and water-borne fungus was a breakthrough as the muga larvae were usually adversely affected by chemicals in any form, he added.
Ranjana Das, who worked on the project, said the liquid formulation required to be sprayed thoroughly on the leaves and branches of the som tree on which the larvae fed and even the soil underneath the tree. It had to be drenched at an interval of 15 days till the larvae matured. “The spray contains chemicals and micro-nutrients like calcium and manganese so that the larvae get sufficient micro-nutrients along with the spray,” she added.
Muga silkworm farmers, Benu Phukan of Khowang in Dibrugarh district and Lakhi Gogoi in Sivasagar district, said the spray contained the disease to a large extent and crop losses were reduced to only 20 per cent.
Das said because of short supply of seeds (Antheraea Assamensis moth’s eggs), the industry had not developed to the required extent and the institute, the only muga research institute in the country, was working to ensure that the supply met demand.

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