Termites are important agricultural pests in the semi-arid tropics. Conventional methods of control have relied on persistent organochloride insecticides with accompanying health and environmental problems. In contrast, cultural control methods provide untested, but environmentally sound options to farmers. This study reports results from three experiments on the use of mulches to reduce Microtermes obesi and Odontotermes spp. damage with relevance to groundnut production in India.
Termites scarification of groundnut was 80–90% lower for pods dried in neem cake or Ipomoea fistulosa mulches than for pods dried directly on the soil. Similarly, subterranean attack by termites on bamboo baits was 20–40% lower in mulched plots than in controls. However, mulches were ineffective in protecting bullock manure from removal by termites.
Successful use of mulches in termite control may be related to food source concentration. Termite location of concentrated food sources, such as bullock manure, was followed by recruitment of workers and construction of protected runways. In contrast, termites foraging on limited food sources, such as groundnut pods, did not construct runways and had greater exposure to mulches.