Aphids, also known as plant lice, infest hundreds of plant varieties. The most affected remain potatoes and cereals. They are pestsare dreaded by gardeners and crop cultivators all over the world, especially the temperate regions. Their asexual reproducing capacity makes then a successful species from a zoological perspective.
They vary between 1mm-10mm in length and aphids generally have soft, pudgy bodies. Their colouring, which merges with the infested plant, can vary between being greenish brown for potatoes, brown for cereals and even colourless for other plants. An Aphid infests a plant and feeds on the sap of the phloem of the plant till the phloem vessel is punctured. Once this happens, transport of nourishment and nutrients to the different parts of the plant gets disrupted.
Additionally, Aphids also consume the Xylem sap,parallely causing damage to the flow of water within the plant and also replenishing its own water content. Once the plant gets weakened due to the devastation of its phloem and xylem cells by the Aphids, aphids reproduce and infest the plant further with more Aphids. These Aphids also carry plant viruses and destroy the plant beyond repair.
The blight fever in potatoes and cereal crop damages which occur in many parts of the world are due to aphid infestation and lack of early detection of the same. Over the years, certain kinds of aphids have acquired immunity towards some chemical pesticides, thereby making it difficult to control them.
Neem oil is a good organic pesticide to be used to control aphids in potatoes and cereals because it contains Azadirachtin which cause hormonal changes in aphids resulting in aphids ceasing to consume the sap of the phloem, rupturing the xylem and reproducing asexually.
Furthermore, since neem oil causes damage only to the plant infesting, i.e. sap consuming aphids; the naturally occurring organisms which replenish the soil and enrich the plant do not get destroyed. Potatoes and cereals are high value crops which fetch the cultivator a good income and high returns on investment. Aphid control through chemical pesticides is an expensive process and neem oil in comparison, is not so costly.
This will ensure that the cultivator’s return on investment remains high. Neem oil is eco-friendly and does not carry any side effects, either to the environment or the soil and hence is a good solution to tackle the menace of Aphids in potatoes and cereals.
Author: Janani Rangarajan- neem
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