An insect species that was first detected in Punjab last year during the kharif season is now posing a major threat ahead of the beginning of the sowing of spring season maize. The ‘fall armyworm’, a gregarious insect, prefers to feed on maize, though it can attack several other crops too.
The sowing of the spring season maize will begin from the first week of February in nearly 30,000 hectares (74,100 acres) in 10 districts of Punjab – mainly in the Doaba region. It is one of the major spring season crops of the state.
Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) and the Punjab Agriculture Department have already organised several workshops to caution the farmers against the attack of fall armyworm. Entomologists say that the pest attacks the leaves and flowers of the maize plant. It can fly long distances, sometime covering close to 100 kms in a night.
The nearly 45-day life cycle of the insect is divided in six stages of development with the most dangerous being when it develops as a ‘sundi’ (caterpillar) and later as an adult. As caterpillar, it eats the leaves and flowers of the crop, After developing into an adult, it lays eggs before migrating from one place to other. Once an adult, it lives for 8-10 days.
Chief Agriculture Officer (CAO) Jalandhar, Dr Nazar Singh said that an adult female moth of the worm lays around 1000-1500 eggs on the leaves of the crop.
“Fall armyworm was first detected in Punjab during Kharif season maize crop last year in August-September, but its population was small. After maize was harvested, there was a break of three months before the next crop is sown due to which it could not multiply much here,” said Dr Kuldeep Singh, Associate Director, KVK, Punjab. He said that as the next maize season is starting, the chances of fall armyworm attack are quite strong.
“We have been educating farmers about proper surveillance of their fields. If they detect the presence of this pest at the stage of eggs, it could be destroyed,” he said, adding that even Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques can be used to destroy the fall armyworm without using the chemical sprays.
“If measures are not taken now, then it can pose a major challenge during the main maize crop season from July to October in the coming Kharif season,” said Nazar Singh.
It is learnt that the fall armyworm was first detected in the African continent in 2016 before spreading to other countries.
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