Muhammad Zahaib Ilyas*, Dr. Zubair Aslam, Muhammad Saeed Ahmad, Hafeez Ameer, Tahir Mushtaq, Ahmad Ali
Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan.
Cuscuta is a group of parasitic plants of red, yellow, orange and very rarely green colour. Genus Cuscuta contains 100-170 species and now belonging to a family Convolvulaceae. It looks like a vine having thin stem without leaf. It has leaf reduced to tiny scales. Mostly, species are completely devoid of chlorophyll. Some have very low chlorophyll content and photosynthesize at a very low level. But most of them are completely dependent on the host plant for nourishment.
Mode of damage/ hunting:
In Cuscuta, flowering time varies with species. Mostly flowering start in early summer to onward. Flowers color range from cream to white to yellow to pink. It yields small size seed in a large amount (about 1600 seeds/ plant). It has a very hard seed coat which leads to longer survival of seed in the soil. After germination of Cuscuta’s seed, it has to gain a host (green plant) for survival within first 5-10 days; otherwise, the death of seedling will occur. During this period, it survives by using the food reserves of seed. After getting a host, it enters its peg-like “haustoria” into the vascular system of the host plant. After attacking the host plant, it grows rapidly and covers the whole plant. It absorbs metabolite, water nutrient etc. from the host plant by using haustoria. It reduces the stand, yield and quality of the host plant. If the attack is severe, it may kill the damaged plant.
Cuscuta makes the host plant susceptible to viral diseases. In the agricultural sector, it decreases the significant yield. If it is attached to multiple plants, it proliferates diseases from one plant to other.
- Chrysanthemum (members of the family Asteraceae.)
- Clover (genus Trifolium plants’ common name.)
- Flax (Linseed is a fiber and food crop. It is called flax when it used as a fiber crop, usually after getting linseed. The bark of remaining stalks used as a fiber.)
- Potatoes (a tuberous crop rich in starch. Very famous staple food of Irish people.)
- Dahlia (a genus of herbaceous, tuberous plants which are perennial in nature. Its members are the Daisy, Zinnia etc.)
- Alfalfa and Berseem (very popular fodder of rabi, winter, season.)
- Helenium (a genus which includes annuals and herbaceous perennial plant. It is a source of food for some Lepidoptera species’s larvae.)
- And many more
- Use crop seed free of Cuscuta seed.
- Clean the infested tillage implement before using for another field.
- Keep the water channels free from all type of parasitic weeds.
- Uproot the infested plant from the field.
- Before entering into the field must assure that your clothes free from dodder seed.
- Try to remove Cuscuta from the field before entering into the reproductive phase.
- Use well-rotted farmyard manure.
- Remove the infested part of the tree as early as possible.
Herbicides that are used to control the Cuscuta may have negative effects on the crop. Following are the herbicides which use in most cases:
- Germination of Cuscuta may be suppresses by the application of pendimethalin and trifluralin. Application of these herbicides before the attachment of Cuscuta to the host plant is very effective but not long lasting for the whole season.
- Glyphosate application (1-2%) also suppresses Cuscuta in the Roundup Ready Alfalfa. Glyphosate will damage the non-Roundup Ready Alfalfa. Glyphosate application to the Roundup Ready Alfalfa also possible through the foliar spray.
Cuscuta seeds are beneficial as:
- It enhances the testosterone level and protects testis cell (spermatogenic cell) from oxidative damage.
- It reduces the risk of cancer.
- According to animal research, it raises the level of immunity.
- It makes bone strong and repairs cartilage.
- It is beneficial for the eyes.
- It prevents as well as repair the liver tissue.
- It uses as an anti-aging supplement in some countries.
- It also proves helpful in muscle building.
Cuscuta related special problem in Pakistan:
Conocarpus considers as a very hardy plant. But when it became the victim of Cuscuta, it lost its vigor quickly. Those trees (Conocarpus) which severely infested by the Cuscuta not only lost their vigor but died in very short duration. This shows its parasitic power. Ber’s tree is also a very favorable host for Cuscuta.