By Ran Bahadur Singh
Anandpur Sahib, September 7, 2020: The maize growers in the Kandi belt area are a worried lot these days. The major Kharif crop-maize in this belt of Punjab and the adjoining area of lower Himachal Pardesh is under pest attack.
Punjab agriculture department has confirmed the presence of the pest in this area known as Fall Armyworm. This pest is the latest addition of pests in this area. The Fall Armyworm are commonly known for their appetite for leaves and stems of food crops.
When contacted, Chief Agricultural Officer, Rupnagar, Avtar Singh said that only 1 per cent of maize has been affected by this pest. But the farmers assess the damage to be more.
Photo Credit : PAU , Ludhiana
“It is almost 8 to 10 per cent,” says Gurbachan Singh of Chandpur Bela village-a farmer who has cultivated 20 acres of maize.
“We have formed teams that visit the area and we have curtailed the pest” said Avtar.
“The other major kharif crop rice is unaffected yet,’’ said Avtar Singh.
If the large area of maize cultivation is affected and the yield comes down it will have impact on the crop diversification drive of the Punjab government.
According to officials of the Punjab Agricultural Department a total of 27,870 hectare area is under maize cultivation in Rupnagar district.
It may be recalled that PAU had issued an advisory to control all armyworm in Moth of June, 2020 as under :
The scientists at the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, have issued advisory for managing fall armyworm in maize. Tracing the history of the inscet, Dr P.K. Chhuneja, Head Department of Entomology, PAU, revealed that the fall armyworm insect is native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas and a noxious pest of the maize. It was first seen in Africa in 2016 as accidental introduction into the continent and soon spread to 40 African countries within one year. In India, the pest was reported in May 2018 in Karnataka, and within a year, it had infested almost all the states of the country. In Punjab, it was first noticed in the farmers’ fields in August 2019, and by end September, the insect was found infesting late sown fodder maize in various districts. In the current Kharif season, its infestation has been reported in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Ropar, Pathankot, Patiala and Fatehgarh Sahib Districts. Dr Chhuneja informed that the fall armyworm prefers to feed on 10-40 days old crop, therefore, at this time, farmers are advised to be highly vigilant for its attack in their fields as the crop is currently at the most preferable stage for the pest. He further added that timely control at this critical stage will reduce the population build up that will minimize the possibility of subsequent damage at the flowering stage. “Correct identification, vigilant monitoring and immediate control measures are keys to curtail its damage,” cautioned the scientist, while clarifying that the larva can be identified from four spots in square pattern at tail end and white coloured inverted Y-shaped mark on the head. The larvae vary among greenish brown, light brown or light grey in colours. The female lays eggs in groups of 100-150 eggs on lower or upper surface of the leaves. Young larvae feed by scraping the leaf surface making papery windows. Later on, the larvae prefer to damage the central whorl leaves feeding voraciously causing round to oblong holes with large amount of fecal matter. The damage starting in patches spreads rapidly in the entire field if not monitored carefully and managed timely.