Fall Armyworm (FAW), an insect indigenous to the Americas, has been spreading across the globe harming crops. It migrated to Africa in 2016 and India in June 2018. It has also spread to neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Southern parts of China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Bangladesh.
The impact of the FAW is so intense that in one year — 2017-18 — it has damaged 20-25% crop yield worth $3.5 billion to 5 billion in about 40 African countries. For the first time, India has imported 5 million tonnes maize and it is suspected that the impact of FAW might be one of the reasons for that.
80 species affected
This lepidopteran pest feeds in large numbers on leaves and stems of more than 80 plant species causing major damage to economically important cultivated crops and grasses such as maize, rice, sorghum and sugarcane, vegetable crops and cotton. America addressed the problem by introducing BT Maize.
Four major organisations — USAID, International Crops Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRSAT), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) and Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR) — have joined hands to prepare strategy to address the issue. A consortium with 45 institutes was established to chalk out strategies to address the problem.
On Wednesday, a three-day regional workshop FAW Management in Asia commenced at ICRISAT where the need for an international collaboration to protect interests of the farmers and for food security in effectively tackling FAW was emphasised.
Over 100 participants from eight South and South-East Asian countries attended the workshop where resource persons from international, national research and development institutions shared their experiences, best practices, approaches and challenges in managing FAW in their respective countries.
Disclosing these details at a media interaction here on Wednesday at ICRISAT, US Consul General Katherine Hadda, Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) Director General Trilochan Mohapatra, ICRISAT Deputy Director General Kiran Sharma, CIMMYT Global Maize Programme director B.M. Prasanna said that FAW is an invasive and damaging pest endemic that is spreading across Asia and Africa particularly targeting maize.
“FAW is here to stay and we have to learn to live with it and manage. It is anticipated that FAW will have long term effects on crop yields, food supplies, livelihoods, trade and threaten the resilience of chronically vulnerable population,” one of the speakers said.
“Maize farmers will be the worst hit. I am sure that India has tremendous expertise to address the issue. We need private players also to play key role with productive collaboration,” said Ms. Hadda.
Mr. Sharma said, “The agricultural research community has been working intensively to take on the inspect pest FAW and it is one of the biggest challenges facing farmers across Africa and Asia. We need innovative approaches, cutting-edge science and regional co-operation to fight this battle together.”