Fall armyworm attack looms over maize crop

Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Chandigarh
PUBLISHED ON JUN 29, 2020 11:35 PM IST

Punjab Agricultural University scientists have cautioned the farmers against fall armyworm attack on maize crop over 4 lakh acres in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Ropar, Pathankot, Patiala and Fatehgarh Sahib districts. The invasive insect-pest was first spotted in Africa in 2016 and first time in India in 2018.

Experts say the pest can destroy the crop completely if not controlled in time. Maize is already sown over at least 4 lakh acres in six districts of state and an addition of 2.5 lakh acres more is expected.

“The pest attacks 10 to 40-day-old plant,” said PK Chhuneja, head department of entomology, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU).

“It was spotted for the first time in Africa in 2016 and soon spread to 40 countries in the continent within a year. In India, the pest was first sighted in May 2018 in Karnataka, and within a year, it infested almost all the states. In Punjab, it was first spotted in August 2019 and damaged late sown fodder maize in various districts,” said Chhuneja.

In an advisory, the PAU has urged farmers to complete sowing of maize by June 30 as rains help in reducing the pest load on the crop at its most susceptible stage. “Fodder maize sowing should be done by August 15. Fodder crop sown late, as experienced last year, has higher pest incidence,” said Chhuneja.

“It caused huge damage to maize crop in Bihar last season. Its attack on maize crop is visible this time, but we are ready to deal with it,” said Punjab agriculture secretary KS Pannu. He advised farmers to be vigilant as the crop is currently at the most susceptible stage for the pest attack. He said the pest attacks only maize and there is no danger to any other crop.

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