The Coconut Cockle (Strategus aloeus) is a pest of economic importance to young coconut palms in Guyana. As farmers are being encouraged to expand their production to tap into the lucrative markets for coconut products, experts believe that the rehabilitation and expansion of coconut plantations are directly correlated to the exploding populations of the pest in the country. The adult cockle attacks the meristems of young plants causing death.
The Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) under the European Union (EU) supported project – “Alliances for the Coconut Industry Development Expansion and Enhanced Support for the Caribbean” is working to develop an integrated pest management strategy (IPM) with local stakeholders. In the past, farmers relied on chemical control. Carbamates and organophosphates in particular, while being very effective in treating the cockle have been deregulated and their use prohibited.
The IPM strategy will assess and make recommendations on the effectiveness of cultural, biological and other chemical control methods. A key element will be to investigate the use of environmentally friendly, pheromone trapping techniques. To date, there is no known approach to lure the pest. CARDI has obtained pheromone samples from Costa Rican company ChemTica and trials have begun to test its effectiveness in coconut plantations. An effective pheromone treatment will provide farmers with an environmentally friendly solution and offer them access to niche markets.
CARDI has collaborated with Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) and completed the taxonomic identification of the species. Presently, surveys are being developed to quantify the extent of the pest in Guyana.
The adult coconut cockle is nocturnal and attacks the young plants between 1-3 years old. They pierce the soil at the base of palms, attack the root plate and penetrate the stem until it reaches the meristem and death of the plant occur.