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Pest alert issued over 'Fall Armyworm' in maize crop

  • Published at 01:19 pm September 21st, 2018
A pest alert issued on August 13 said the for the Fall Armyworm has invaded 70% maize fields in India’s KarnatakaReuters

DAE fears the invasive pests may spread to Bangladesh and asked farmers to be alert

The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) has recently issued a pest alert for the Fall Armyworm, a crop-eating pest native to the Americas.

As part of checking the entry of the invasive worm, DAE’s Plant Protection Wing has issued warnings to all plant quarantine offices at the land and maritime ports of the country.  

The pest alert issued on August 13 said the pest has invaded 70% maize fields in India’s Karnataka region, leading to a drop in yield by 20%.

DAE fears the invasive pests may spread to Bangladesh and asked farmers to be alert. In case of any pest invasion, the DAE has requested their agricultural staff all over the country to notify headquarters.

"We have asked 30 centres of the Plant Quarantine Wing all over the country to issue certificates of entrance for each consignment of maize after proper lab tests. Till now, there has been no report of a pest attack in the country," said Amitava Das, director of the Plant Protection Wing of the DAE.  

Plant Quarantine Wing (Chittagong seaport) Deputy Director Zahirul Islam said they have received a letter from the Plant Protection Wing and have been on high alert. “We have so far detected no pest in maize consignments,” he said.

In a report on August 8, the Hindustan Times said the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) issued a ‘pest alert’ on July 30 based on results of surveys conducted between July 9 and July 18 that recorded more than 70% prevalence of the Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) in a maize field in Chikkaballapur, Karnataka. 

Molecular identification of the larvae matched the insect’s genetic sequence database from Canada and Costa Rica, the paper reported. ICAR scientists said the pest has spread to eight or nine districts of Karnataka, with up to 35% damage to 20-25 day young crops, even attacking  the tassels of mature maize plants.   

The DAE said ’s maize production and cultivation doubled in Bangladesh over the last seven years. The country produced 1552,000 tons of maize in 2010-11. The production rose to 3516,000 tons in 2016-17.

According to an estimate, 85% maize produced in the country is used in the poultry sector, 10% in fish feed and the remaining five percent is used for fodder and human consumption.

DAE said the country's yearly demand for maize is five million tons. However, the country can only produce 70% of its total demand. Around 1.2 to 1.5 million tons are imported from India, Egypt, and other countries.

According to Plant Quarantine Wing (Chittagong Seaport), 604,843 tons of maize was imported through the Chittagong Port during 2016-17 and 1315,907 tons was imported during 2017-18.

What is Fall Armyworm?

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Fall Armyworm (FAW), or Spodoptera frugiperda is an insect native to tropical or subtropical regions in the Americas. 

In its larva stage, it can cause significant damage to crops, if not well managed. It prefers maize, but it can feed on more than 80 additional species of plants including rice, sorghum, millet, sugarcane, vegetable crops, and cotton. 

FAW was first detected in central and western Africa in early 2016 and has quickly spread across virtually all of Sub-Saharan Africa. Because of trade and the moth's strong flying ability, it has the potential to spread further. The moth can fly up to 100 km per night and the female moth can lay up to 1,000 eggs in her lifetime. 

According to agriculturists, ragged feeding, and moist sawdust-like frass near the funnel and upper leaves, usually characterize leaf damage. Early feeding can appear to be similar to other stem borers. Deep feeding in the leaf funnel may destroy developing tassels.