Entomologists from the Cotton Improvement Center (CIC) have reported the first-ever case of Fall Army Worm (FAW) infestation on the cotton crop. Dr NK Bhute, assistant entomologist from the Center, said the worm was reported in the village of Susre in Pathardi taluka of Ahmednagar district.
Bhute said the cotton crop was in more than 1.5 acres of land adjacent to a 3 acre maize field. “At least 50 per cent of the maize was severely infested by FAW and once the crop was harvested, the pest might have transferred to the cotton crop,” he said.
The cotton crop was at the boll formation stage. “This is the first time the pest has been reported in cotton,” he said. The extent of damage will be revealed once the crop is harvested.
Reported for the first time in 2018, FAW (Spodoptera frugiperda) is a pest which feeds on 80 different crops, including maize, soyabean and jowar. This pest is blamed for the largescale destruction of the maize crop in various parts of the world. Last year, FAW was responsible for a dip in maize production in India. Infestation has also been reported in jowar.
This year, Maharashtra reported FAW infestation in more than 2.63 lakh hectares of the 8.60 lakh hectares of maize crop. While the Department of Agriculture has launched a massive outreach campaign to control the pest, there are reports of damage from various parts of the state.
As cotton and maize are grown mostly in the same area, the probability of the pest jumping from maize to cotton is real. Bhute pointed out how maize is a shorter duration (90 days) crop than cotton (180 days), so the pest can easily jump into cotton after the maize crop is harvested. “Integrated pest management is the need of the hour which will help in control of the pest,” he said.
A team from the Nagpur-based Central Cotton Research Institute (CCRI) had also visited the fields. Dr Ankush Chormale, entomologist with the Singapore-based agri-input company 6th Grain, said FAW infestation in cotton was reported in the United States. “This shows that the pest has jumped from maize to cotton. Cotton growers need to be told about control measures so that they do not suffer economic losses,” he said.