x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

A weevil purge: 2 million pests wiped out in Abu Dhabi

Agricultural engineers have set up nearly 120,000 traps across Abu Dhabi farms so far this year in a bid to wipe out the pests.

ABU DHABI // Agricultural engineers are helping farmers to trap beetles that attack date-palm trees, instead of spraying pesticides that harm the fruit.

Two million red palm weevils have been caught and then killed this year in nearly 120,000 traps in Abu Dhabi's 23,000 farms.

The scheme also treats infested trees and improves farmers' technical knowledge. It will continue until the end of next year.

Adult red palm weevils grow up to 5cm long. Their larvae can tunnel holes up to a metre long in the date palms, weakening and ultimately killing the tree.

"The difficulty is to detect this insect at an early stage before it lays its eggs and before the severe damage to palm trees and date yield occurs," said Christopher Hirst, chief executive of Abu Dhabi Farmers' Services Centre, which is running the project.

Mr Hirst said attacks by red palm weevils had prompted the Government to turn to prevention rather than previous programmes that relied on pesticides.

Farm workers are taught better practices such as pruning trees, trimming leaves and removing excess side shoots to curtail pests.

A team of agricultural engineers supervises 31 work teams equipped to analyse data and provide the latest information about the pest population.

rtalwar@thenational.ae