Since the monsoon has begun on time this season, ideal conditions have been created for the host to flourish and multiply, according to entomologist Anuksh Chormule.
Barely a month after kharif sowing began in Maharashtra, reports have surfaced of the fall army worm (FAW) causing damage to the maize crop in the state. Compared to last year, the FWA has come early to Maharashtra this time around.
Since the monsoon has begun on time this season, ideal conditions have been created for the host to flourish and multiply, according to entomologist Anuksh Chormule. A single worm can lay 1,000 to 1,500 eggs at a time, and therefore, it becomes very difficult for the farmer to control the spread of the infestation, Chormule said. Maize is primarily cultivated in Nashik, Aurangabad, Pune and Solapur on nearly 8 lakh hectare across the state.
Officials from the Maharashtra agriculture department confirmed that FAW infestation has been reported in the maize crop across the cereal grain growing regions in the state. They, however, could not put a figure on the extent of the infestation. As per reports, the infestation has affected nearly 50% of the crop in Pune district in Indapur taluka on some 1,500 hectare, 10-15% in 7,000-8,000 hectare in Ahmednagar district, 3-4% in Nashik district and in some parts of Akkalkot, Mohol, Malshiras and south Solapur.
According to officials from the agriculture department, the Crop Pest Survey and Consultation Project (Cropsap) has been enforced to create awareness among farmers about pest disease and pesticides in case of emergency. The department has launched a massive outreach campaign to control the pest, the official maintained.
Reported for the first time in 2018, FAW is a pest which feeds on 80 different crops, including maize, soyabean and jowar. This pest is blamed for the large scale destruction of the maize crop in various parts of the world. Last year, FAW was responsible for a dip in maize production in India. FAW had infested 700,000 hectare under maize crop in 2019-20 kharif season, 40% more than the affected area of around 500,000 hectare last year, as per reports.
Attack by the pests was reported in 14 states in kharif with major damage in Karnataka and Maharashtra. Infestation of FAW in kharif maize crop was reported across 263,000 hectare in Karnataka and 232,000 hectare in Maharashtra. Maharashtra reported FAW infestation in more than 2.63 lakh hectare of the 8.60 lakh hectare of the maize crop in 2019-20. Infestation was also reported in jowar and cotton.
Originally found in North and South America, FAW made its way to Nigeria in 2016. Within two years, it had spread to 44 countries in Africa, damaging up to 40 million tonne of maize.