Pest attack

Published: Sunday 29 February 2004

-- The armyworm has devastated crops in several provinces of Pakistan. Sindh is plagued by the pest, which has damaged 25 per cent of the rice crop and a substantial part of the banana crop.

Even as Sindh is expected to face a crop deficit of 100,000 tonnes, the current wheat stocks in the North-West Frontier Province and Balochistan are likely to be exhausted by the end of February. But the Sindh agricultural ministry has yet to awaken to the crisis. Department officials have been meeting importers of pesticides to discuss the herbicide shortage. But no specific plan has been drawn up to deal with the obvious menace-maker -- the armyworm.

Wheat crop in Sindh is more vulnerable to insect attacks than in Punjab. Ever since the Sindh Seed Corporation shut up shop, 90 per cent of the growers in the province depend on seeds developed at various research institutes in Punjab. They are simply not aware which variety suits the area. There is a growing need to undertake pest control measures throughout the year, rather than only during the crop season, say experts. They suggest that the government should join hands with the private sector and launch a national programme to educate farmers on managing crops, specially those vulnerable to pests.

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