Meet Swathy And Know Her Incredible EDRR Method Against Invasive Alien Insect

India has definitely a lot to keep her head high, particularly with so many bright young brains coming forward with scintillating ideas and innovations. Meet N.S. Swathy, yet another gem from the south of India. Swathy who hails from Kerala’s Thrissur district is a postgraduate student of Sree Kerala Varma College. What has made this smart mind hit fame is her effort to develop an Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) strategy against Barnacle wax scale insect.

To begin with, the Barnacle wax scale insect scientifically termed as Ceroplastes cirripediformis is an invasive alien insect. The insect is identified as causing relentless damage to host plants which are generally fruit-bearing. The insect destroys host the plant by feeding on its fluid. After which it also excretes honeydew to cause coal smudge. Thus the insect makes both ecological and economic loss.

The insect is a nave to the southern United States and the Caribbean islands. It gradually spread to regions like Bulgaria and China. Considering a notable climate change, Chinese researchers earlier predicted its spread to more regions, including India. In 2020, George Mathew a researcher to the tree health helpline of the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) Peechi, reported wilting passion fruit vine. This became the prime focus of Ms. Swathy’s project.

Assigned with the task, what she did first was identifying the species. For this, Swathy held a molecular bar barcoding1 mitochondrial gene was used to identify species. Through constant dedication, sheer curiosity keen observation, Swathy reached valuable inferences. It was found that during the early development stages like the first and second nymphal instars, the insects infest the leaves of host plants. Following which in third instars, they migrate to the woody tissues. These insects are highly Polyphagous suck fluid of a wide variety of plants starting from mango to ixorIxoralike in other native regions, the absence of natural enemies of these insects is an additional threat to host plants.The insects with a wax coating appear in pearl’s white color. They are 3-5mm long. Another interesting fact is that the adult females are asexual and they can produce huge population (up to 2000 eggs at a time) without help of a male.

Even there are methods developed by other countries to cease the spread, they are not quick and apt in our ecology. Swathy wanted to address this and worked on rapid prevention where the host plants are saved before it’s too late. Senior Principal Scientist at KFRI, Dr. T.V. Sajeev, helped her by giving the right guidance throughout her project.

“These insects reach other areas through travel, tourism, and transportation. Once established, they reproduce, multiply and spread. We have methods to curb their growth in each stage. What makes EDRR unique from them is that it controls the insect from the time of arrival” says Swathy.

After learning and researching, Swathy developed an Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) strategy. The tact is found to be the best and most economical to date. It helps in managing invasive alien species by hindering their spread to larger areas and at an early phase.

Swathy’s EDRR is recognized as the first successful demonstration against wax insects. The EDRR developed by this girl has diffused two populations of the insect at Parli and Dhoni in Palakkad district. This is indeed a matter of pride. Let more innovations come our way. Let Swathy be an inspiration to super talents around her. Good luck!

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