Leaf eating caterpillar is a common pest that affects spinach plants and causes significant damage to the yield. The pest is known for feeding on the plant’s leaves, shoots, and buds, severely hollowing out internal tissues. Farmers often resort to chemical pesticides to control the population of Leaf eating caterpillars, but these methods harm the environment and non-target organisms.
In recent years, an increasing interest has been in developing sustainable and eco-friendly methods to manage this pest. This article provides an overview of the cultural, biological, chemical, and organic/natural methods that can be used to control the population of Leaf eating caterpillar in spinach fields.
Management of Leaf Eating Caterpillar in Spinach
Life Cycle of Leaf Eating Caterpillar
- Egg: The spherical, yellowish eggs are laid singly on tender parts and buds of plants. The egg period lasts for 2-4 days.
- Larva: After hatching from the egg, the caterpillar or larva emerges. The caterpillars are initially brown and later turn greenish with darker broken lines along the side of the body. The body is covered with radiating hairs. When fully grown, they measure 3.7 to 5 cm in length. The larval period lasts for 18-25 days.
- Pupa: The full-grown caterpillar pupates in the soil in an earthen cell. Pupation occurs inside the soil; the pupal stage lasts 7-15 days.
- Adult: The moth is stout, medium-sized, with brownish/greyish forewings with a dark cross band near the outer margin and dark spots near coastal margins, with a wing expanse of 3.7cm. After emerging from the pupal stage, the adult moth will mate and lay eggs, completing the life cycle of the Leaf eating caterpillar.
Damage Symptoms of Leaf Eating Caterpillar in Spinach Field
- Feeding on leaves: The young larvae of Leaf eating caterpillar feed on spinach leaves. They eat through the internal tissues, severely damaging and completely hollowing out the leaves. This can lead to defoliation and reduce the photosynthetic capacity of the plant.
- Feeding on shoots and buds: The caterpillars also feed on the shoots and buds of spinach. They thrust their head inside the shoot or bud and feed on the internal tissues, leaving the rest of the body outside. This can cause stunted growth and deformation of the plant.
Management of Leaf Eating Caterpillar in Spinach by Cultural Method
- Use pheromone traps: Pheromone traps can be installed at a distance of 50 m at a rate of 5 traps/ha to monitor the population of Leaf eating caterpillars. These traps emit pheromones that attract male moths, which are then trapped, reducing the population of moths and the number of eggs laid.
- Deep summer ploughing: Deep summer plowing can be carried out in 2-3 year intervals to eliminate quiescent pupae of Leaf eating caterpillars in the soil. This practice can expose the pupae to high temperatures, desiccation, and predators, reducing the pest population.
- Early sowing and short-duration varieties: Early sowing of spinach can help avoid the peak period of Leaf eating caterpillar infestation, reducing the damage caused by the pest. Short-duration varieties can also ensure the crop matures before the peak infestation period.
- Avoid closer plant spacing: Closer plant spacing can create favorable conditions for the development and spread of Leaf eating caterpillar. Therefore, it is recommended to maintain proper plant spacing to reduce the risk of infestation.
- Crop rotation: Crop rotation with non-host crops can help reduce Leaf eating caterpillar’s population. This practice can disrupt the pest’s life cycle, making it difficult for them to complete their development.