ICAR scientists raise alarm after dangerous pest detected in Northeast

ICAR scientists raise alarm after dangerous  pest detected in Northeast
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Imphal, May 7: A devastating pest native to tropical and subtropical North America has been detected for the first time in northeastern states including Manipur, scientists from Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Manipur Centre have disclosed.
The insect called Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) which lays to waste crops like maize was detected in the maize research farm of ICAR, Manipur Centre in the outskirt of Imphal city and also at Chandonpokpi village farm in Chandel district.
“We have detected and started monitoring the new insect since last month and can now officially confirm its presence,” said scientist (Entomology) Dr Arati Ningombam of ICAR Manipur centre.
It was also reported from Nagaland, Mizoram and Tripura this month.
In India, it was detected for the first time in Karnataka in May 2018 and rapidly spread to other parts of India including Chhattisgarh in January this year.
This pest was earlier confined to America until 2015 and by 2017 spread to some African countries, wreaking havoc in the continent.
On the rapid spread, Arati said, “These insects can fly more than 100 km a night. Besides being an exotic species, they have no natural enemies in the new environment which is similar to their native tropical and sub-tropical America.”
It is a pest that can feed on many host plants, she added. It can cause complete devastation of a field within short time if appropriate control measures are not taken. It has been reported to feed on rice, sorghum, sugarcane and many economically important vegetables.
Any invasion by a new, exotic insect is always a threat to the farmers and biodiversity of a place, another ICAR scientist (Agronomy) Dr MA Ansari said.
“This new invasion should be considered seriously and knowledge about this new insect is the only way to manage the insect pest rather that blindly using insecticides recommended by pesticide dealers to control it,” he said.
The scientists have advised removal of weeds around the crop field, manual destruction of egg masses and caterpillars, setting up pheromone traps at the rate of 4/ha for monitoring and 10/ha for mass trapping of adult insects etc.
The detection of the new insect is likely to pose a major threat to the ongoing collaborative project of ICAR, Manipur Centre and ICAR-Indian Institute of Maize Research, Punjab to promote improved technology for maize production in the northeast.
Maize which is the third important cereal crop in the world after wheat and rice plays a significant role in the Northeastern states in ensuring food security for direct consumption and for livestock farming. (Courtesy: HT)