The red spider mite (Panonychus ulmi) is threatening tea plantations in the Nilgiri hills. The infestation has been reported from a number of places including Coonoor, Kotagiri, Kundah and Udhagamandalam in Tamil Nadu, notes a statement issued by the Tea Board of India and the Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Tamil Nadu.
Tea planters fear the infestation could result in a huge crop loss within a few weeks of the pests' onset, and demand immediate remedial action. According to the studies by the Coimbatore-based upasi-Tea Research Foundation, the population of the mite remains high from January to May, reaching its peak in March-April, causing about 18 per cent crop loss.
In 2003, the mite infected most tea plantations in south India.
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