Presently, fruits and vegetable productions account for over half of Spanish agricultural productions. Amongst the topping vegetables are tomatoes, pepper and aubergines.
With the recent rise in attacks on vegetable by hornworms, farmers in Spain’s Mallorca have counted their losses resulting from these constant hornworm plagues as they seek solutions.
A hornworm is the larval stage (caterpillar) of a moth which feed on the foliage of various plants of the family Solanaceae while leaving green or black droppings on the plants.
The large caterpillars are robust and bright green, with white diagonal striped markings and a small protrusion (the “horn” in hornworm) on the abdominal segment.
Their shielding green colour and green droppings, protect the hornworms by somewhat making them difficult to distinguish. As a result, they can cause enormous damages to vegetables like tomatoes, pepper, aubergines, and potatoes prior to pest identification.
Feeding on leaves, small stems and occasionally chewing pieces of vegetables or fruits, growers will only identify this garden pest after a large portion of their crop has been damaged.
Agriculturalists in Spain’s Mallorca have informed the public that, their tomato plantations are continuously diminishing blames to these green beasts and also fear that the situation may deteriorate come summer-a season where hornworms are at their best at growth and leave destruction.
Jaume Pocovi, spokesman of “Unio de Pagesos”, an organization-protecting the interest of farmers, elucidated that the insects have great reproductive potentials so their multiplication in greenhouses is ever unending.
He equally recommended a chain of methods to fight the damage citing biotechnological controls as a top since it is environmentally friendly and sustainable.
Operating in unison with “Unio de Pagesos” is Spain’s leader of Agriculture, Andreu Joan. Joan participated in the 2019 international conference, to discuss ways to tackle these pests and settles that hornworm plagues are amongst the top dangers to crops in the whole Mediterranean.
He proposes an easy technique to combat the epidemic- “Once the production of crops is completed, plants should be burned or buried to avoid the proliferation of hornworm”.
He equally encourages the farmers to try out integrated approaches to eliminate the pest. Presently, his team is evaluating the impact of chemicals and biotechnological controls on hornworm plague in six farms in the Pla de Sant Jordi, Catalonia, Spain.
It is worth noting that apart from destroying crops, hornworms are harmless to humans or animals.