Agri Business

ICAR releases dos and don’ts on tackling Fall Armyworm

KV Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on July 10, 2019 Published on July 10, 2019

Suggests installing pheromone traps, among other steps

The Fall Armyworm (FAW), or spodoptera frugiperda, is the latest threat that the agricultural sector is facing. FAW, which wreaked havoc in Africa, entered Karnataka last year and spread very rapidly to other States.

Though it predominantly infects maize, Fall Armyworm has the potential to spread to many other crops.

The fact that it spread to 50 countries in two continents in just two years reflects the speed with which it spreads, causing large-scale damage to crops.

While information on this new problem is not readily available, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s (ICAR) centre in Meghalaya has come out with a 50-page compendium on FAW. It provides complete information on FAW — where it is born, how it devastated crops in Africa, its lifecycle and how to tackle it.

“It is essential to prevent its infestation in the early stages. For this, farmers, extension workers, students and other stakeholders need to be sensitised to diagnose the problem well,” an ICAR scientist said, adding that “efforts have also been made to provide the information on native bio-control agents and basic management practices to be followed in time.”

ICAR’s North-East research facility took interest after the pest was first reported in March in Lunglei district of Mizoram and West Tripura district in Tripura. “Subsequently, it has detected massive outbreaks in April in Mizoram and Nagaland,” he said.

How to spot?

“The egg mass of FAW is difficult to distinguish from other two related worm (and moth) species commonly found on maize. Fall Armyworm eggs are laid in mass inside the whorls or on the lower surface of leaves or on stem,” the compendium said.

“Eggs may be laid on single or multiple layers. Female moth lays more than 1,000 eggs in single or in multiple clusters on maize or other host plants,” it said.

Mitigation

The ICAR scientists have asked farmers to set up five pheromone traps in the infested area and also in areas that are likely to be affected by Fall Armyworm. They should be there both in crop season and off season too.

The ICAR advises farmers and other stakeholders to scout for FAW population following a ‘W’ path in a particular field as soon as maize seedlings emerge.

The advisory prescribes a detailed mitigation regimen, depending on which stage the FAW attack is in.

Deep ploughing is recommended before sowing. This will expose FAW pupae to predators. “Timely sowing is advised. Avoid staggered sowings. Inter-cropping of maize with suitable pulse crops that are vogue in a particular region,” it said.

Ornamental plants

Growing ornamental flowering plants as an inter-crop will help in build-up of natural enemies.

“Balanced use of fertilisers and cultivation of maize hybrids with tight husk cover will reduce ear damage by FAW,” it points out.

“Hand picking and destruction of egg masses and neonate larvae in mass by crushing or immersing in kerosine water would help,” it said.

Application of dry sand in to the whorl of affected maize plants immediately after noticing the FAW incidence will also help, the compendium added.

Published on July 10, 2019
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