MUSCAT: The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MoAF) held a high level meeting last week to discuss ways to fight the dubas bug infestation that is affecting date palms in the sultanate.

Following recent surveys, the ministry has found that the infestation is on the rise and may damage a large number of date palms across the sultanate.

The dubas bug is said to be responsible for 30 per cent of the losses that date palm farmers incur.

The ministry has till now treated 8,932 acres of agricultural land to check the spread of this bug.

The meeting, chaired by H E Dr Ahmed bin Nasser al Bakri, Undersecretary in the ministry, was attended by Ishaq bin Ahmed al Ruqaishi, advisor, a number of directors and directors general from various governorates along with several field technicians.

Dr Bakri said that although the level of dubas bug infestation has shown a decline during the past years, there are indications of a gradual rise this year in terms of area and severity.

“We need an immediate plan to control the spread of the bug in the shortest possible time,” he said.

However, techniques like aerial spraying need to be minimised as they are harmful for human beings and other insects. “Instead, we should look at the use of ground sprays and bio-control measures.”

The meeting also talked about how much agricultural area has been treated, the amount of pesticides used, the situation in governorates under threat and the measures that need to be taken.

The meeting also came up with proposals on implementing the dubas bug control programme in a more efficient and environment-friendly way.

Looking at the increasing infestation and to avoid the use of insecticides that may negatively impact health and the environment, The Research Council (TRC), has allocated funds to study and develop new technologies to combat the bug.

TRC is also currently developing an integrated management programme for controlling the dubas bug.