Dry spell increases fall armyworm threat to maize

Stray cases of pest attack reported from some districts

Published - July 12, 2019 12:33 am IST - HYDERABAD

A farmer sprays pesticides in his fields to protect the maize crop.

A farmer sprays pesticides in his fields to protect the maize crop.

As the increased threat of fall armyworm looms large on maize due to the continuing dry spell, the State government has asked the agriculture department to take up a massive campaign to control the incidence during the first critical stage of the crop for 30 days from sowing.

The crop is already sown in over 1.6 lakh hectares, nearly one-third of the normal extent for the season, against the normal extent of over 5 lakh ha covered during the kharif season. According to official sources, there have been reports of stray incidence of the pest attack from Nizamabad, Kamareddy, Siddipet and Sangareddy district. The officials are apprehensive that incidence of the pest attack could increase further in the event the dry spell prolonged.

Sowings of maize have picked up momentum in Siddipet, Nagarkurnool, Warangal Rural, Vikarabad, Nizamabad, Kamareddy, Rangareddy, Mahabubnagar, Karimnagar, Nirmal and Mahabubabad districts with the help of a couple of good showers. However, many of these district are still suffering heavy rainfall deficit even in the second week of July.

The incidence of fall armyworm was noticed in large tracts of maize during the last kharif and rabi seasons when it was cultivated in 4.62 lakh ha and 1.29 lakh ha, respectively. The intensity of pest attack noticed low to medium in Karimnagar, Siddipet, Sangareddy, Mahabubnagar and Khammam with a few pockets in those districts suffering high intensity.

As it was a phenomenon witnessed in many maize growing States such as Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and others the Government of India has cautioned all the States to take necessary measures to control the pest attack. In a letter addressed to District Agriculture Officers and District Collectors last week, Agriculture Production Commissioner C. Parthasarathi has suggested them to implement various pest management measures available by creating awareness among farmers with help of extension officers in the campaign mode.

“The first window of the maize crop, 0 to 30 days, is the most vulnerable and critical period of management. Several options including spraying of recommended pesticides and other interventions such as whorl application of neem, sand and lime and other formulations have been advised to be implemented immediately after observation of egg masses of the pest,” Mr. Parthasarathi stated.

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