‘Invasion’ of Fall Armyworm studied

By Our Staff Reporter
IMPHAL, May 16: Some scientists have opined that the invasion of Fall Armyworm in the State might have been invited by the State’s rising temperature which is quite favourable to the particular which is notorious for causing even famine in some African countries.
Fall Armyworm, which can cause extensive damage to standing crops within a very short time was detected in the State in the beginning of the current month although it was confined to the USA till 2015.
ICAR Manipur Centre Entomologist Dr Arti Ningombam said that Fall Armyworm was brought to the State by the global climate change.
In tandem with the global climate change, different species of animals and insects have been migrating from one place to another in search of favourable climatic conditions. Migration from one place to another in the struggle for survival is something inherent in the DNAs of each and every species, she said.
Pointing out that the North East region has tropical and sub-tropical climatic conditions which are similar to the climatic conditions of some parts of the USA, Dr Arti said that the North East region and Karnataka where Fall Armyworm was detected for the first time in India in 2018 have similar climatic conditions.
Fall Armyworm can travel 100 Kms in one night and might have been brought to Manipur by wind or they might have flown to the State through the Middle East. It is also possible that the pest spread to Manipur through Myanmar or Mizoram, she opined.
Fall Armyworm can be controlled biologically in the USA for it has natural enemy there but there is no natural enemy for the highly invasive pest in Manipur, she said.
Fall Armyworm was in the first generation (caterpillar) stage when it was first detected in the State and it is this stage which can wreak havoc to standing crops. When it was first detected at Chandponpokpi, Chandel district, 80 per cent of the maize cultivated there were found devastated, Dr Arti said.
There are also reports of Fall Armyworm attacking and destroying paddy, sugarcane and other plants. Tilling paddy fields in April/May which was a common practice during earlier days but not so common these days is quite helpful in controlling pests, she said.
Farmers should follow scientific methods of cultivation and inter-cropping rather than mono cropping is more beneficial, she continued.  Another Entomologist Dr Akoijam Romila said that they found Fall Armyworm doing lesser damage to other plants as compared to maize even though maize and other plants are cultivated together in a single field.
Damramanu Bhattarai (56), a maize cultivator of Kanglatongbi said that he had seen pests attacking roots of maize but this is the first time pests have been attacking soots.
He said that he cultivated maize over one pari but most of the maize plants have been devastated by the pest.   
Another maize cultivator Man Bahadhur Pourel (73) said that this is the first time in his lifetime that he saw pests attacking maize plants.
He also noted that the climate of Manipur has become much hotter. Notably, Agriculture Department, ICAR and CAU have been working hard collectively to tackle the menace of Fall Armyworm.