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Call for management strategies to check fall armyworm menace
Correspondent
 IMPHAL, May 17 - Scientists of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) specializing in maize research, who are visiting Manipur in the wake of widespread pest invasion into maize fields, stressed that proper “management strategies” and “effective scouting” can control economic damage to maize cultivation in the region.

A devastating pest called fall armyworm, native to tropical and subtropical America, has attacked the maize fields in Manipur. It was first spotted in the State last month by ICAR scientists.

The scientists made the observation during the opening day of a two-day national workshop on ‘Scientific management of fall armyworm in maize production’, held under the aegis of the ICAR, Manipur Centre, and the ICAR-Indian Institute of Maize Research (IIMR), Ludhiana, here today. Whenever any foreign pest comes to a country, it creates havoc in the first one or two years, and creates panic among policy-makers and farmers, they said.

The scientists pointed out that the pests had once affected 3.5 million hectares of maize fields in India. But they could not inflict much economic damage as per records due to the joint action strategies formulated by the State governments. The pest is likely to cause crop loss of 10-30 per cent in the absence of plant protection measures.

Dr JC Sekhar, Principal Scientist of ICAR-IIMR, Hyderabad, observed that the pest attack can be managed effectively by routine scouting and other necessary steps.

Earlier, inaugurating the workshop, Commissioner (Agriculture) Sumant Singh urged the farming community of the State not to panic as preventive steps have been taken by different agencies to control the pest attacks.

He asked the scientists to clarify whether the pests were likely to attack paddy fields too. “We need to understand this as steps, including allocation of resources and other actions, need to be planned,” Singh said.

About 2.25 lakh hectares of land are under paddy cultivation in the State, whereas the total maize cultivation area stands at less than 20,000 hectares.

Informing about the steps taken by the State authorities to control the menace since May 7, Director of Agriculture Laltanpuii said necessary intervention programmes have been initiated on 283 hectares of maize cultivated area out of 313 hectares.

Around 70 joint surveillance teams of the Agriculture Department have covered 249 villages. Of these, 203 villages have been found to be affected, she said, adding that a helpline has also been opened in this regard.

Central Agricultural University Registrar Prof K Mamocha sought to know whether the pest comes from Bangladesh or Myanmar. An interaction session among scientists and farmers was also held later.

2 more pests identified: Entomologists of the Central Agricultural University (CAU), Iroishemba, have claimed to have detected two more pests responsible for the vast destruction of maize crops across the State.

The two pests are armyworm (Mythimna separata) and maize stem borer (Chilo partellus). Armyworm is said to be one of the major maize pests in Asia, while maize stem borer is a menace in both Asia and Africa.

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