Indiscrimate Application of Pesticides in Tea Gardens: A Major Challenge for Muga Silkworm Rearers.
The golden yellow muga silk (Antherea assamensis Helfer) of Assam is unique product of India and it is nowhere available in the world except Assam and few states of North East India due to its peculiar insect behavioural adaptation and requisite climatic conditions. The larva of these silkworms feed primarily on som (Persea bombycina) and soalu (Litsaea polyantha) leaves. The natural golden color silk produced is known for its glossy fine texture and durability. Muga possesses unique characteristics such as unique method of cultivation and production, color stability (everlasting), golden colour increases with each wash, tensile strength -strongest amongst all silks, UV absorption capacity, durability, acid resistant (resistant to concentrated Sulphuric acid) and thermal properties.The present production is around 127 MT and nearly 50,000 families directly engaged in muga farming for their livelohood.
In recent days, it has been reported that burning of hydrocarbons in local oil fields releases harmful gasses such as Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Sulfur Dioxide, Hydrogen Sulphide, Ozone, Nitrogen Dioxide and Hydrogen Fluoride into the atmosphere which has adverse effect on the muga plantations in the nearby areas. Accumulation of pesticides due to pest management for neighbouring tea and other plantations also adversely affects sericulture in the region. It has reported based on survey conducted in the upper Assam dustricts of India that more than 40 percent larval mortality occurs due to pesticide menace during peak rearing season ( May-October) of muga silkworm. Further, the muga rearers have been converting their muga food plantation either into tea or other plantation upto 32 per cent during last two years. This undiscrimate application of pesticide in tea gardens mostly by small tea growers not only affect muga industry but also it will emerge as major challenge for tea industry and agro-ecosystem as a whole.