Morus plant, also known as the Mulberry plant, divided into white mulberry (Morus Alba), Red Mulberry (Morus Rubra) and Morus Nigra – the black mulberry, is the most important component when rearing silkworms, as it is the biggest determinant of whether or not, one can have a successful and highly productive business in sericulture.
Mulberry, solely, can give a guarantee assurance to healthy rearing processes, healthy worms and great cocoon output when rearing silkworms, and so it is very important to pay utmost attention to the garden as a farmer, because the performance of the mulberry automatically affects the performance of silkworms, at the end of the rearing cycle.
Silkworms’ most recommended mulberry type, when rearing is the White mulberry, though all the types of mulberry can be used for feeding the worms.
Silkworm diet is made entirely of mulberry leaves, which are highly rich in nutrients, proteins, vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
The worms feed on mulberry leaves all throughout their larva stage and utilize the rich leaf contents especially the proteins for biosynthesis
Silkworms feed on only mulberry to form cocoons, and the worms being commercially vital insects, have to feed on the healthiest mulberry leaves for great productivity at the end of the day.
The worms do not need to drink any water because the leaves contain enough hydration too. This therefore means that, the mulberry trees should receive regular watering while in the gardens by irrigation, in case of dry spells or through rainfall.
Dry spells and very low temperature conditions highly affect the performance or hydration levels of the leaves, and cause premature falling of leaves and fruits, hence mulberry plants fail to thrive in these conditions
Mulberry plant is resistant to most harsh conditions, like drought-like temperatures as long as the trees find deep, loose and nutrient-rich soils. Deep soils enable the trees to have deep-rooting; the mulberry trees too, heave to be planted in a well sunny-windy sheltered area for better performance of the leaves, as exposure to high temperature conditions leads to destruction by drying.
The lifespan of mulberry is between 25 to 50 years, depending on the care and soils, deep rooting and attention given to the plant and garden, generally, in terms of pruning, weeding and leaf picking, plus spraying that is done in a bid to control pests and diseases.
Mulberry diseases are both fungal and bacterial, and these cause malformation of the plant and leaves, stunted growth, poor leaf structure and nutrient level drops, therefore have to be controlled or avoided, so as to have healthy performances and high nutritious values.
Common diseases in mulberry include;
- Leaf spot symptomized through a depiction of brownish irregular spots on the leaf surfaces, the spots enlarge and join together forming a ‘shothole’ – leaves become yellow as disease becomes severe and wither off
- Powdery mildew which manifests through white powdery patches appear on downer leaf surfaces while upper surfaces become yellow, severity of diseases the patches turn from yellow to brownish-black, leaves become yellow, coarse and lose nutritive level
- Leaf rust which depicts small circular brown eruptions till leaves become yellow and fall off, rainy and winter conditions
- Stem canker which is evidenced by greenish black eruptions on mulberry cuttings, these cause the bark decays and dies
- Fungal leaf blight which is common during both sunny and rainy conditions, depicts through browning or blackening of leaf from tips to margins, when it gets severe, the whole leaf browns up till it falls
- Bacterial leaf blight, which is both soil and airborne, common during rainy and cold conditions, manifests blackish-brown water-soaked patches on leaves
- Collar rot which is evidenced by bark decolouration and cutting rotting
- Cutting rot disease which causes decaying of the mulberry cutting from the bark during its initial stages and then advances to the decaying of the whole mulberry cutting when it gets severe
- Die-back disease which causes wilting of samplings from top downwards till they die off completely
- Root knot which is caused by non-segmented nematode, and it culminates into stunted growth, yellowing of foliage, formation of knots/galls on the roots
- Root rot disease, which kills the whole plant by causing plant withering as leaves fall off from the bottom, roots turn black due to fungus and decay, caused by less soil moisture and organic matter
Mulberry trees are capable of harbouring many different troublesome insects which most of the turn out to be pests to destroy the plants.
.Pest infestation get leaves eaten, sap sucked and direct damage caused to the crop hence leading to its death, stunted growth or low nutritious value
Common pests that affect mulberry include – Mealy bugs which exist in two groups, that is, the pink mealy bug and papaya mealy bug; Leaf Webber, Jassids, Thrips, Termites, Aphids, Spiral Whitefly, Hoppers, Red ants, Black ants and Caterpillars
Every farmer would like to see their gardens and agricultural businesses thriving, it is therefore very important to deal with most of the hindrances and affecting factors, which can be avoided in their initial stages before heavy losses are incurred.
Disease and pest control plus garden management in mulberry, can be through the following practices;
- Spraying with recommended insecticides, pesticides, and herbicides to get rid of the pests and diseases plus control their spread among plants
- Ensure required spacing
- Regular weeding to reduce competition for nutrients and space – mulberry trees do not thrive in a weed infested garden
- Irrigation to avoid drying of plants during dry spells or high temperature conditions
- Timely Pruning to enable regeneration of new and healthy branches and leaves
- Thinning to enable regeneration of newer and healthier branches and, or leaves. This practice also helps to reduce thickness of the plant(s)
- Digging up trenches through the gardens to help to retain water in the thereby keeping the mulberry always in healthy shape ground by controlling drying and controls soil erosion/depletion
- Raking away all leaves plus trimmings and burning them all up to avoid disease and pest spread or reinfection of the trimmed plants
- Cutting down or digging up the affected tree(s) completely to avoid disease and
- Applying undiluted white vinegar or rock salt to the stumps of affected trees
Disease and pest infestation among mulberry plantations causes malformation of the trees, stunted growths or even wholesome destruction of the plants as affected parts start decaying and dying till the entire plant is destroyed; therefore, gardens have to be closely monitored, the affected tree branches carefully tamed or pruned in time to avoid destruction of the entire plant, affected trees too should be uprooted to avoid affecting the entire plantation at the end of the day.
Once the entire garden is destroyed, it means a halt in rearing or even losses if rearing already commenced because the worms would either starve or have less nutritive leaves to feed on hence end up being very unhealthy themselves or giving off very unhealthy results in cocoon outputs at the end of the rearing/production cycle.
Proper management of the mulberry garden not only assures a farmer of healthy leaves and worms but also, a great healthy cocoon output.
Story Compiled by Mercy Scarlet Kigai, P.R.O TRIDI.