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How to Deal with Fall Armyworm; Read ICAR’s List of Dos and Don’ts

Abha Toppo
Abha Toppo

The Fall Armyworm or FAW is the latest threat that the farming sector is facing. Fall Armyworm that wreaked destruction in Africa, entered Karnataka last year (2018) and spread quickly to several other parts of India.

Though FAW mainly infects maize, but has the potential to spread to several other crops. The fact that it has spread to 50 nations in two continents in just 2 years reveals the speed with which it spreads, causing large-scale damage to the crops.

Keeping this in view, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s (ICAR) facility in Meghalaya has prepared a 50-page compendium on Fall Armyworm. It has complete information on the insect as to where has come from, how it destroyed crops in Africa, its lifecycle & how to deal with it.

An ICAR scientist said, “It is necessary to prevent its infestation in the early stages. For this, growers, extension workers, students & other stakeholders need to be sensitised to identify the problem well”. He added that “efforts have been made to give information on native bio-control agents & basic management practices to be followed in time.”

ICAR’s North-East research centre took interest after the pest was first discovered in March in Lunglei district, Mizoram & West Tripura. He said, “Later, it has detected huge outbreaks in April in Nagaland and Mizoram”.

Fall armyworm

How to spot FAW?

The compendium said, “The egg mass of FAW is hard to make out from other two related worm species normally found on maize. Eggs of Fall Armyworm are laid in mass inside the whorls or on the lower surface of leaves or on the stem”.

It said, “Eggs could be laid on single or multiple layers. Female moth lays over 1,000 eggs in single or in multiple clusters on maize or other host plants”.

How to get rid of Fall Armyworm - Dos & Don'ts

The ICAR scientists told farmers to set up 5 pheromone traps in the infested area & also in areas that could be affected by FAW. They must be there both in crop season and off season too.

The ICAR also suggested farmers and other stakeholders to explore for Fall Armyworm population following a ‘W’ path in a particular field as soon as maize seedlings come out.

The advisory has laid down a detailed mitigation procedure, depending on which stage the FAW attack is in.

Deep ploughing is suggested before sowing as this would expose FAW pupae to predators. It said, “Timely sowing is advised. Evade staggered sowings. Inter-cropping of maize with suitable pulse crops that are vogue in a particular region”.

By growing ornamental flowering plants as an inter-crop will help in increasing natural enemies. Also balanced application of fertilisers & cultivation of maize hybrids with tight husk cover will decrease ear damage by Fall Armyworm.

It mentioned that “Hand picking & destruction of egg masses & neonate larvae in mass by crushing or immersing in kerosine water will be helpful”.

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