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PAU warns maize farmers against fall armyworm

Is an insect that, in the absence of natural control or good management, can cause significant damage to crops
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, Chandigarh, Ludhiana
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2020 10:34 PM IST

Experts from Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) have cautioned the state farmers against the attack of fall armyworm on maize crop.

Fall armyworm is an insect that, in the absence of natural control or good management, can cause significant damage to crops.

It prefers maize, but can feed on more than 80 additional species of crops.

In Punjab, its presence was first reported on maize towards the end of Kharif season last year. 

The pest has widespread occurrence and may reappear in spring maize.

Ludhiana chief agricultural officer Baldev Singh Naurat said a significant number of farmers grow maize after potato crop. 

“The presence of fall armyworm in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan is a matter of concern. If the temperature rises in February and March, then there are strong chances that the maize crops in Punjab would come under its attack. In congenial environment, this worm can cover over 100km in 24 hours, so the scientists and agricultural officers have to remain on alert,” he added.  

Farmers advised to remain vigilant

Maize section in-charge at PAU, JS Chawla, has advised the farmers to remain vigilant for any incidence of this pest in a bid to prevent it from populating and damaging the crop.

Farmers should survey their fields thoroughly and manage the pest, he stressed. 

Since maize is grown almost all year round for various purposes, management of this new invasive pest should be done at first appearance to minimise the increase of pest in successive generations, entomologist (forage) Harpreet Kaur Cheema said. 

Referring to agronomic interventions for its management, JS Chawla said, “Farmers should avoid very early and late sowing of spring maize. The ideal time is from February 1 to February 15. Fodder maize sowing should be restricted between April 15 and August 15.” 

He added, “Farmers should strictly avoid staggered sowing of maize, especially in the adjacent fields to minimise multiplication of the pest.” 

Experts advise pest spray 

Senior entomologist (maize) Jawala Jindal said as soon as the attack of fall armyworm is noticed, farmers must spray biological control agent bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki-based formulations at 2ml/litre of water to control smaller larvae.  

What’s fall armyworm

Fall armyworm is an insect that, in the absence of natural control or good management, can cause significant damage to crops. It prefers maize, but can feed on more than 80 additional species of crops

PAU entomologist (forage) Harpreet Kaur Cheema says, “The larval stage of the fall armyworm damages the crop. The larvae can easily be identified by the presence of four spots at the tail end and a predominant white coloured inverted Y-shaped mark on the head. The younger larvae feed by scrapping the leaf surface, making papery windows.”

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