Caterpillars on rampage

Imlisanen Jamir

It is imperative that district officials take immediate heed of the recent directives issued by the state government following outbreak of crop infestation by Fall Armyworm Caterpillars in neighboring states and parts of Kohima district.

Fall Armyworm (FAW) is an invasive insect indigenous to the Americas and has been spreading across the globe harming crops. It migrated to Africa in 2016 and India in June 2018. The pests are estimated to have cost damage amounting to around 3.5 billion dollars worldwide in 2017-18.

In large numbers, the pests attack the leaves and stems of more than 80 plant species, many of which are economically important crops such as maize, rice, sorghum and sugarcane, vegetable crops and cotton.

“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,” said one speaker in a recently held workshop at the International Crops Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

In Mizoram, it is reported that the pests have caused losses of about Rs 20 crore, affecting 1747.9 hectares of Maize cultivation in 122 villages. As it caused havoc in Mizoram, the invasive insects made their way to parts of Manipur with the worst affected areas of the state being Churachandpur, Kanglatombi-Charhajare, Imphal West, Chandel, Kakching, Thoubal and Kangpokpi district.

First detected last year in the state of Karnataka, the non indigenous pest has caused extensive damage to crops and loss to farmers in several parts of the country. ICRISAT Deputy Director General, Kiran Sharma had recently stated that while the agricultural research community is working intensively to take on the inspect pest, 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.”

With the government reporting that the pests have already made their way to Kohima district, farmers of Nagaland, particularly those engaged in maize crops, are in a fix. On May 11, the Directorate of Agriculture for Nagaland State issued a couple of notices to district officials to being monitoring, surveillance and post scouting measures.

State authorities should mobilize immediately and partner with private bodies and the scientific community to work towards preventing large scale damage, and establishing means to help subsistence farmers.

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