Timely intervention and sustained awareness programmes by state agriculture dept prevented crop loss
Proper precaution and timely management by the state agriculture department and awareness among farmers have succeeded in thwarting an attack by the Fall Armyworm (FAW) on maize crop in Odisha.
Odisha produces over 7 lakh tonnes maize every year. The coverage of maize has increased to 2.40 lakh hectares in 2019-20 from 2.28 lakh ha a year ago.
Nabarangpur, Koraput, Rayagada, Gajapati, Ganjam, Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar districts have taken up maize cultivation in a big way. Besides, it is traditionally grown also in districts like Nuapada, Kalahandi, Balangir, Bargarh and Sonepur.
“No crop damage due to FAW attack has been reported from any district. Sustained awareness programmes in gram panchayats, television shows, distribution of leaflets relating to the identification of the pest and advisory of proper medication to weed it out seem to have worked,” joint director of agriculture Guru Prasad Tripathy told Down To Earth.
The pest can be effectively controlled with precaution and proper medication, he said.
Farmers also claimed to being more alert in identifying the pest and taking precautions to save their crop. “We followed the instructions of the local agriculture office, using recommended pesticides, organic and chemical,” Anadi Majhi, a farmer from Nuapada, said.
FAW is native to the Americas and is known for its devastating effect on crops. It migrated to India from Africa.
The pest attacks the crop within 45 days of sowing, chewing away the unopened green leaves in the growth stage. If not monitored effectively, the damage can be massive — even up to 100 per cent.
The pest can attack at least 80 types of crops including bajra, jawar, ragi, paddy, wheat and vegetables. However, in Odisha the attack seems to have been confined to maize so far, officials said.
FAW was reportedly spotted for the first time in India in Karnataka in June 2018 and spread to ten other states, including Odisha, in the next ten months.
Officials said the department had responded quickly soon after it received an alert from the Centre regarding the infiltration of FAW into several states. The first report of the presence of FAW in maize fields came from Nuapada last year.
The department formed two teams to survey the maize growing areas. The team comprised plant protection officers of the department, professors from entomology department the Odisha University of Agriculture Technology and entomologists from National Rice Research Institute of Cuttack and Central Integrated Pest Management Centre.
They found mild attacks in some areas, which were in the initial stage. As there was minimum damage to crops, it was not widely reported in the local media. Still, the department started its awareness, precautionary and curative programmes as the farmers were unfamiliar with the new pest.
Officials said spraying recommended insecticides, intercropping, and applying ‘beneficiary insects’ could avert the damage to the crops. Farmers were encouraged to grow crops like arhar and asparagus bean in between maize as it helps in creating habitat for insects like spider and Trichogramma that eats the larva or damage the eggs of FAW.
The agriculture department also advised the farmers to release 40,000 Trichogramma parasites per acre after 10-15 days of germination of the maize every week for five weeks. The department’s disposal bio-control laboratory gave the parasites to the farmers.
The department also recommended the application of a neem seed solution just after sowing.
Also read: Journey of the Fall Armyworm
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