By: Dr. MF BAQUAL
The silkworm which in Kashmir is called ‘Paithkuim’ and scientifically ‘Bombyx Mori’ is an insect with a difference spitting silk thread which is woven into splendid fabrics. We all know that these fabrics are in turn sold to the royal people thus ensuring the flow of money from the upper class to the lower class. Since the successful breeding of silkworms and the breeding of quality and quantity cocoons is contingent on the precautions that our stakeholders take, it becomes mandatory for each individual to ensure that these precautions are well taken and that preparing for future silkworm farming is done from day one for increased dividends.
On the one hand, mulberry leaves are the only food for silkworms and on the other hand, it is reported that a mulberry tree absorbs about 4162 kg of carbon dioxide and releases 3064 kg of oxygen each year, serving thus the double objective of improving the economy of the actors associated with this and also cleaning up our environment.
The role of the sericulture industry in improving the agrarian economy is enormous not only in the Union Territory of J and K, but also throughout the subcontinent. The UT industry has come to the rescue of people since time immemorial and history has it that the sericulture industry was the sole source of livelihood for the people of this part of the globe. Although over time there has been fierce competition for the industry from other sister concerns associated with the availability of more lucrative jobs for stakeholders, but the silk industry continues to provide means subsistence to many thanks to the efforts taken up by the Sericulture Department and that of the research institutes.
Unavailability of mulberry leaves throughout the year due to our geographical location and climatic constraints also plays its part in hampering growth and making the silkworm farming business a sideline occupation. Anyway, mulberry plants continue to be the sole food source for silkworms, and the quality and quantity of leaves decide the breeding success and quantum. The role of quality mulberry leaf in the sericulture industry is the same as the role of air/oxygen in sustaining human life or any life form on earth. With the aim of enriching the mulberry leaf in the field which is also near the breeding areas, the Sericulture Department with SKUAST-K provides quality mulberry seedlings year after year to breeders all over the valley. in general and that of the adopted villages in particular.
Although the planting season is now over and it is hoped that mulberry planters have planted mulberry trees in their orchards or even in fallow or uncultivated land, it is still more important that they take the greatest care to maintain them through irrigation and other cross-cultural operations. Caring for the plants during the establishment phase is of the utmost importance. This should be done for a dual purpose, as the mulberry tree, in addition to providing food for the silkworms, also improves the quality of the surrounding air and leads to the sequestration of carbon dioxide. A mulberry tree is reported to absorb about 4162 kg of carbon dioxide and release 3064 kg of oxygen each year.
However, with the spring breeding season fast approaching, there are some important points and precautions/considerations that should be taken into account for overall breeding success, including:
- Since the success of rearing silkworms to very large numbers depends on effective disinfection, proper disinfection of rearing buildings/space and rearing devices should be ensured and , in this regard, full cooperation must be extended to departmental technocrats who carry out disinfection.
- From hatching to its adult stage, silkworms go through five stages and worms up to stage two are called young worms or chawki. Although the Department of Sericulture provides high chawkies to the beneficiaries, more attention still needs to be paid to the late worms also by maintaining proper hygrothermal conditions and feeding the quality and quantity of the leaves to the worms under the guidance of the field officers of the department.
- Please ensure that proper spacing is provided to growing worms in proportion to their size and ensure the use of bed sanitizers. Late silkworms do not tolerate high temperatures, high humidity and poor ventilation. Therefore, the livestock building should have cross-ventilation facilities to lower the ambient temperature and to remove harmful vapors and gases generated by large amounts of excrement produced by the silkworms.
- Remove unhealthy larvae, if any, and put them in 2% bleach powder in 0.3% slaked lime solution. Do not spill bed waste on the floor of the breeding room while cleaning the bed. 80% humidity is needed for stage III larvae and 70% is needed for stage IV and V larvae. The ideal temperature for late rearing is 26℃.
- Ensure good ventilation and a dry condition in the rearing house during the moulting period and spread the bed gently soon after the worms have settled down to moult and apply slaked lime powder evenly to the bed to ensure the drying of the bed. Avoid strong fluctuations in temperature and humidity as well as strong winds and bright light. Resume feeding when 95% of the worms are out of molt.
- Wash hands and feet with a disinfectant solution before entering the barn. To start, hands and feet should be washed with an alkaline soap and then soaked in a disinfectant solution (2.5% Sanitech/Serichlor in 0.5% slaked lime solution or 2% bleaching powder in lime extinguished at 0.3%).
- Collect diseased worms daily in a basin with a mixture of lime powder and bleaching powder and dispose of them carefully by burning or burying them in a distant place. Keep the rearing room clean and well ventilated while rearing silkworms.
- Only mature worms should be mounted on rigs for cocoon spinning. When the larvae are in the spinning phase, an ambient temperature of 24°C and a relative humidity of 60-70% as well as good ventilation should be provided.
- Harvest the cocoons on the 6th day. Remove defective cocoons. After sorting the defective cocoons, classify the cocoons according to their quality. In winter, delay harvesting for a day.
- Keep the cocoons well in jute bags after complete drying until marketing.
The above precautions should be followed for an increased harvest of cocoons.
The author works with SKUASK-K and can be contacted at [email protected]