Fall Armyworms attack bajra crop, agriculture department sounds alert
After locusts, farmers in Agra district are facing attacks by Fall Armyworm (FAW) on bajra (pearl millet) crops. With the pest attacks being reported from Bah and Khergarh blocks of Agra district, the agriculture department has issued an alert, asking the farmers to take preventive measures to save their crop. Bajra is a major crop cultivated over one lakh hectares in the district.
The Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) is a lepidopteran pest that feeds in large numbers on leaves and stems of more than 80 plant species, not only causing damages to bajra, jowar (sorghum), wheat, maize, rice and sugarcane, but also affecting vegetable and fruit crops.
The FAW was first spotted in Africa in 2016 and soon spread to 40 countries in the continent within a year. In India, it was first sighted in May 2018 in Karnataka and infested almost all the states within a year.
According to agriculture department officials, the FAW has a dark head capsule with a light inverted ‘Y’ marking, while the larvae vary from light tan to black with three light yellow stripes down the back. There are a wide dark stripe and a wavy yellow-red blotched stripe on each side.
District agriculture officer Rampravesh Verma said, “FAW is capable of eating more than its body weight in a day. Besides, its reproductive capacity is also dangerous. A single female can lay as many as 1,000 eggs in her lifespan. Armyworm moths are active during the evening, feeding on nectar, mating, and searching for oviposition sites. Eggs are deposited in rows or clusters on the lower leaves of grasses or at the base of plants.”
“The lifecycle of the worm can range from 30 to 45 days. In winter, the cycle can extend even up to 90 days. With continuous overlapping generations, the worm can be seen in all stages at the same time. This makes it difficult to manage the pest,” said Verma.
When the FAW infestation is severe, agriculture department officials recommend the use of Emamectin Benzoate and Chlorantraniliprole (0.4 grams per litre of water) and when it is mild, they recommend neem formulations.
“The pest can be controlled if timely management is initiated. Our teams are spreading awareness among farmers for the prevention of crop loss by the FAW attack. Farmers can send photographs of affected plants with their queries and address on WhatsApp numbers 9452247111 or 9452257111 and the required assistance will be provided to them in 48 hours,” added Verma.