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A Contribution of ICAR National Fellow Project

दीमक से बचाव के लिए देशी तकनीकPopularising the Termitexpert web-portal

General/ITM


TERMITE MANAGEMENT IN AGRICULTURE

Termites are quite often ill-famed as destroyers; though they are of immense importance to humankind and our ecosystem. Notably, they comprise 10% of the animal biomass of our planet earth, an astounding fact few know. These tiny crawlies live this earth time immemorial and older than the Jurassic dinosaurs. Seldom have they attained pest status both indoor and outdoor. However, as a pest if established, they are to be managed appropriately, and this section deals the management aspects in various agricultural crops.

Termites attack both annual and perennial crops, especially in the semi-arid and sub-humid tropics and cause varying degree of loss. In general, damage by termites is greater in rain fed than irrigated crops, during dry periods or droughts than periods of regular rainfall, in lowland rather than highland areas, and in plants under stress viz. abiotic: lack of moisture, disease or physical damage; and biotic: unhealthy and stunted plants due to insect-pest damage. Usually exotic crops are more susceptible to termite attacks than indigenous crops.

Termites causing economic losses in agriculture, belong to the following families and genera: Hodotermitidae (Anacanthotermes and Hodotermes), Kalotermitidae (Neotermes), Rhinotermitidae (Copotermes, Heterotermes, and Psammotermes), and Termitidae (Amitermes, Ancistrotermes, Cornitermes, Macrotermes, Microcerotermes, Microtermes, Odontotermes, Procornitermes, and Syntermes). The extent to which termites are a problem to agricultural crops, the nature of damage are often very much related to the geographic regions concerned.

Agricultural crops

Some termite-pests eat into the taproots of young (eg. cotton and groundnut) seedlings immediately below the soil surface, destroying the central root portions, and fill the resulting cavities with soil. Damaged plants wilt and may die eventually within few days particularly under drought conditions. Some termites attack the roots of maize and sorghum, and result in toppling down of damaged plants. Termites may also travel up the roots into the trunk and branches. They eventually disrupt the movement of nutrients and water through the vascular system resulting in death of the plant. Termites threaten key agricultural crops, which form the basis of household nutrition in many countries. They attack crops like upland rice, wheat, maize, groundnut, sugarcane, chickpeas, yams and cassava (=tapioca).

Damage to maturing and mature plants: Damages to maturing plants are largely caused by species that have entirely subterranean nests consisting of a diffuse network of galleries and chambers. These species enter and consume the root system, which directly kills the plant or indirectly lowers yield through decreased translocation of water and nutrients. Attack to the root system can also lead to increased susceptibility to pathogens, or lodging of mature plants. When the grain in lodged plants touches the ground, soil fungi such as Aspergillus may invade it (eg. Groundnut).

Damage to stored products: Termite damage to stored products generally results in invasion by Aspergillus. The fungus causes indirect yield losses and contaminates production with aflatoxins.

General management aspects

Cultural practices

Termites mostly attack diseased and stressed plants and it rarely attacks healthy plants. Removal of crop debris and residues will reduce termite food supplies thereby it leads to less foraging activity by workers, leading to reduction in termite numbers and attacks. Higher seed rate is recommended in areas where termite attack is expected, so that even when attacked seedlings are thinned out some amount of economic losses are avoided. Termites favour red and sandy soils, and are less of a problem in post-rice groundnut crops and in clayey soils. Deep summer ploughing is recommended before the onset of monsoon so as to destroy the foraging tunnels and workers present in the subterranean region. Well decomposed FYM alone has to be applied to the field if partially decomposed FYM is applied it will act as an attractant to foraging workers and will lead to the destruction of crop by termites.

Crop rotation: Crop rotation especially including fallow periods is recommended to reduce detrimental effects on soil fertility and structure. The fallowing helps the soil to regain its fertility and it also helps the subsequent crop to grow healthy and thereby helps the crop to develop some tolerance towards termite attack. Intercropping maize with soybean or groundnut has reduced the termite activity and increased the predatory ant activity.

Soil management: Pre-planting tillage also destroys the tunnels built by termites and restricts their foraging activities and also reduces their damage to crops. In vertisols termite is not a problem due to frequent occurrence of gilgai microreleif (small cracks and crevices) prevents maintenance of runways, galleries & mounds.

High density sowing: Sow seeds at higher rate than the recommended dose as compensatory to termite damage. Surviving plants later may be thinned to the appropriate number/stand.

Soil-tillage and chemo-irrigation

Normally it is the practice of cultivating by tractor only the effecting planting/sowing area. The border/bunds on perimeter are often left uncultivated and unattended for years together. This zone acts as the reservoir of termite infestation foci/sources. These areas should essentially be made clean of weeds, and cultivated with tractor, and soil drenched with insecticides. If mounds are found suitable treatments are to be resorted to.

Though in older literature, and even in some existing recommendations (Central and State) offer utilizing termiticides (mostly chlorpyriphos) in the irrigation channel, this crude method should be avoided.

Termite mound treatment

Destroy termitaria (termite mounds in the vicinity of fields and treat the spot with chlorpyriphos sprays at community level in villages/farms. Though dequeening (=killing the queen) in the termitaria kills the entire colony, practically it is not always possible. If mounds are available then care must be taken accordingly.

Intercultural practices

Termite activity is reduced substantially by deep ploughing (disc and cultivator). This helps in altering the soil structure up to 20-25 cm depth and the termite galleries formed during the post-harvest period. In heavily termite infested soil/land, please explore the possibility of tillage by sub-soiler/cultivator/chisel plough, with simultaneous soil-application of termiticides by tractamount multi-nozzle on boom system.

Field sanitation and manuring: Use only well rotten manure to reduce termite incidence. Do not leave crop residues, dry sticks, stubbles, bamboo sticks etc. in the field. Keep the field clean.

Bamboo sticks for use as labeling pegs/boards etc. may be substituted with plastic ones. If bamboo pegs are to be used at all, the treat (dipping & soaking) with 1% of chlorpyriphos essentially. If coaltar coating is possible, then can be given which is a long-term protection. Alternatively these can be painted with varnish along with termiticides (eg. Confidor® - imidacloprid).

Fence posts: Treat them with hot coaltar creosote (3-coat brushing); or soak them for a few hours in the open tank over a slow fire and then air-dry for few days. This protects the fence posts, tent-pegs or other wooden stakes for years.

Seed treatment

Recommendations of seed treatment for various crops are offered by Government of India under its most ambitious programme Total Seed Treatment Campaign 2007Laboratory evaluations were made with three insecticides – imidacloprid (600FS), fipronil (5FS) and chlorpyriphos (20EC) (each at three doses) to verify deleterious effects of test-doses for the test-crops. In chickpea and maize, supporting rapid tetrazolium tests were conducted to verify the hard and dead seeds in ungerminated seeds. Phytotoxicity is observed in chlorpyriphos treatments; interestingly imidacloprid exhibited phytotonic effects on the emerged seedlings of all test crops.

Following seed-treatment-recommendations are safe as no deleterious effects to seedlings are observed (Thube 2013, unpublished).

Wheat – imidacloprid @ 3-5; fipronil @ 4 and chlorpyriphos @ 2 ml/kg seeds.

Maizeimidacloprid @ 1.5-5;  fipronil @ 5 ml/kg seeds. Chlorpyriphos is not recommended.

Chickpea – imidacloprid @ 5-10; fipronil @ 5-7 and chlorpyriphos @ 7ml/kg seeds.

Groundnut – imidacloprid @ 3-7; fipronil @ 5 and chlorpyriphos @ 6ml/kg seeds.

Soybean – imidacloprid @ 4-6; fipronil @ 3-5 and chlorpyriphos @ 4ml/kg seeds.

Termiticides used for agricultural sector (for outdoor and indoor management)
Insecticides approved by Insecticide Act, 1968; Follow Indian Standard Code of practices for anti-termite measures in associated structures, IS 6313 (Part 2): 2013 for pre construction and IS 6313 (Part 3): 2013 for post construction treatment

Sl. No.

 

Insecticide/
Termiticide

Formulation

Agriculture

Structural use (indoor)

1.

Bifenthrin

10.0%EC

2.5% EC
Wood treatment (ply, veneer and wood)

2.

Chlorpyriphos 

20%EC
10% Granule
1.5% DP

50%EC
2% RTU (wood treatment)

3.

Clothianidin

50% WDG

NA

4.

Ethion

NA

50% EC

4.

Imidacloprid

17.8% SL (spray)
48% FS (seed-treatment)

30.5% SL
2.5% Gel for household pests

5.

Fipronil

NA

0.05% Gel for household pests


Last Updated: 04-01-2020

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