Farmers from northwestern Turkey's Edirne are on high alert after bringing a moth invasion of sunflower fields in the area largely under control.
The small moth (Loxostege sticticalis), locally known as meadow caterpillars, hit the country's northwestern and central regions last week, after being first reported in Thrace (Trakya) region.
Farmers in Edirne, with the help of the Agriculture Ministry, have brought the situation under control after a week of intense work that involved applying pesticides using ground equipment and drones.
The invasion had emerged in some certain areas at Edirne’s Keşan, Uzunköprü, Meriç and Enez districts. Almost all of the cultivated fields have now been sprayed with pesticides.
Local farmer Hayrettin Filiz told the Anadolu Agency (AA) that he planted sunflowers on an area of approximately 37 acres and that the sunflowers are now in very good condition at the moment.
He added that they were still on high alert and were constantly checking their precious crop against a reemergence of the moth.
"Currently, we do not have meadow caterpillars. We have thrown away all the pesticides needed. We will continue to check our field frequently until the crop is harvested. Good luck to my friends, I hope it passes soon." he said.
He added that they were very pleased with the latest situation and expected an increase in sunflower yield this year.
Earlier Tuesday, Atilla Bayazıt, head of the local directorate of agriculture in Edirne, told AA that they had managed to bring the situation "90%" under control after pesticides were used in some 100,000 acres of sunflower fields.
Professor Yalçın Kaya from the Department of Genetics and Bioengineering at the Trakya University of Edirne, who also heads a research center on improving the crops, said moths emerge when the fields are not "plowed deeper" and in case of lack of action against weeds in the fields.
Kaya told AA on Wednesday that farmers should also adjust their pesticide scheduling to a time that would not affect the bees, another inhabitant of the fields.
"This moth is a real 'green' predator known for damaging more than 150 plant species. Its original host is wormseed, where it leaves its larvae. They first eat away weeds and then move on to the sunflowers," he said.
In Tekirdağ, around 70,000 acres of land were subject to moth invasion, though local authorities say they don't expect significant damage to yields.
Moths were also reported in the western province of Bilecik last week, damaging the crops and in the central province of Eskişehir, the northwestern province of Bursa and the western province of Çanakkale.
While sunflower production is limited in those provinces, the authorities warned that the moths might also damage any corn fields nearby.
In Istanbul's Çatalca district, however, the main hub for sunflower production in the metropolis, moths emerged some 20 days ago and soon invaded everywhere. In some fields, the plant's bright yellow flowers were nowhere to be seen due to the extensive damage.
Nihat Pakdil, deputy minister of Agriculture and Forestry, told reporters on Tuesday after a visit to Tekirdağ that it was early to say the danger was fully contained but there won't be any impact on total sunflower yield in the country.
He said the state would always support the farmers in their fight against the moth. Pakdil noted that sunflower production was boosted this year due to a high level of precipitation and thus, the yield may be lower than expected.