Fall armyworm bane back in Bihar’s maize-growing eastern districts

More than 2,000 hectares of maize affected by FAW attacks in Madhepura district alone

By C K Manoj
Published: Thursday 07 January 2021

Farmers in Bihar have been hit hard by the fall armyworm (FAW) attacks on their maize crops.

The FAW attack, according to official reports, has been reported from the state’s eastern districts such as Madhepura, Purnia, Bhagalpur, Saharsa and Khagaria.

Madhepura experiences floods every year, as a result of which most farmers have started growing maize instead of paddy.

“More than 2,000 hectares where maize was cultivated has been affected by the FAW in Madhepura. It is spreading fast,” assistant director, state plant protection division, Sanjeev Kumar Tanti told Down to Earth.

The deadly FAW was first spotted in India in May 2018. As of 2020, it has spread to as many as 14 states, according to Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar. It is an invasive and polyphagous (feeding on many foods) pest. It can attack cereals and forage grasses.

“We are keeping a tab on the situation and holding awareness camps at the Panchayat level to inform farmers on how to save their crops,” Tanti said.

He also visited some affected areas in Madhepura and gathered information on the FAW spread. Chausa, Alamnagar, Purani, Udakishunganj, Bihariganj and Muraliganj blocks are among the worst-affected.

State agriculture department officials said the FAW are dangerous as they can travel more than 200 kilometres in one night in search of food. “The feed on maize because of the presence of cellulose in it,” joint director, state plant protection division, Pramod Kumar said.

He added the department had issued alert about the FAW attacks and issued advisories through the newspapers and TV news channels about pest control.

“All our officials in the districts have been visiting farmers and holding Kisan Chaupals to inform them about this inspects,” Kumar said.

Several farmers lamented they planted maize after losing their produce to floods. “I planted maize crops in two hectares of land and more than half my crop has been damaged by FAW attacks. How will I recover the loss?” said Arun Kumar, a farmer from Phulaut village in Chausa block.

Ganesh Kumar Singh said he started growing maze after his paddy crops were damaged in floods.

The eastern region of Bihar is popularly known as the ‘maize hub’ where the crop is cultivated in around two lakh hectares of land. The average annual crop production has been around 22 lakh tonnes, but in 2019, around 40 per cent of total maize crops were reportedly destroyed by FAW.

Villagers said small dose of pesticides do not work on FAW. The unrestricted use of highly toxic pesticide resulted in the deaths of crows in 2020.

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