Agriculture scientists talk shop about managing Fall armyworm
Eastern Mirror Desk
Dimapur, May 27: The Nagaland center of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research for the North Eastern Hill Region (ICAR), and the ICAR-Indian Institute of Maize Research at Ludhiana in Punjab have taken an initiative to educate farmers in combating the invasion of the Fall armyworm on maize in the state.
An infestation of crops by the pest in neighbouring Mizoram too is said to have caused substantial damage on maize in early April.
A daylong workshop to promote scientific maize cultivation and discuss ways to manage the Fall armyworm in Nagaland was held in the conference hall of the ICAR on Mon. May 27 at Medziphema, in Dimapur district.
The workshop was organised jointly by the state’s ICAR and the Ludhiana ICAR.
The principal scientist at ICAR Umiam in Meghalaya Dr. DJ Rajkhowa reported that maize in the state of Nagaland shows ‘highest’ productivity with 1958 kg/ha with a production of 134.3 from an area of 68.5 ha.
Rajkhowa was giving a discourse on the status and strategies for scientific maize cultivation in the state. Among districts, Dimapur’s maize production and productivity is the highest with 1970 kg/ha, updates stated.
The agriculture scientist said the district has higher production per unit area, and higher income; tremendous demand as food; feed and industrial usage, export potentiality; employment generation and value addition; nutritional security; and adaptability to varied soil and climatic conditions.
Rajkhowa remarked that the productivity of maize in the state can be increased tremendously because of the practice of the “jhum,” or slash-and-burn, cultivation.
However, there are constraints to maize cultivation in Nagaland. Rajkhowa reported that there were no quality seeds, which are either composite or hybrid. Further, there is lack of adoption of appropriate management practices, mergence of biotic and abiotic stress, and shortage of labour which affect timely operation.
Other constraints are the lack of marketable surplus, transportation, organised market, mechanisation, and post harvest management which the state is poor in; lack of value chain and appropriate storage facilities and lack of appropriate capacity building programme. Because of these factors, he said, 5-7% of maize is lost.
Rajkhowa listed out a 15-point strategy to combat the constraints in maize cultivation. The agriculture scientist listed out the strategies: Provisioning quality seed to farmers and with ease of reach; hybrid maize; seed producer groups; capitalising purchasing power parity or PPP opportunities in seed production; creation of storage infrastructure; ensuring public procurement with appropriate minimum support price or MSP; technology infusion; inclusion of maize in govt. schemes such as the National Food Security Mission and the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana; provisioning micro-irrigation preferably solar-based systems; in-situ soil moisture conservation; resource conservation practices; provisioning credit facilities; ensuring crop insurance; provisioning post-harvest management; and creation of value chain.
A senior scientist at the Nagaland ICAR, Dr. LK Baishya, gave a discourse on maize production technologies in Nagaland. He said the crop demands less water and generates employment for more than 650 million people in the farming sector and related business ecosystem levels. Importantly, Baishya said, maize contributes more than 2% to the total value of output from all agricultural crops.
“At a global average productivity of 5.62 t/ha, the productivity level in India was 2.5 t/ha while in Nagaland was 1.9 t/ha,” the agriculture official said.
Baishya talked about the scope and opportunities in maize production in Nagaland. He said maize-growing areas in the state was 68820 ha (21.16% of the net crop area) with an average productivity of 1975 kg/ha.
Maize is extensively cultivated also as a mixed crop in “jhum” cultivation by different tribes of Nagaland. From farming maize, he said, farmers can save 90% of water and 70% of power compared to paddy.
On the issue of the pest Fall armyworm, a scientist in entomology at the ICAR-Indian Institute of Maize Research in Ludhiana, Dr. Suby SB said that the pest was first reported in 2018 at Shimoga district in Karnataka. It spread to 17 other states, she said.
About 180 plant species were reported to have been attacked by the worm and inflicting a huge economic damage. However, the damage was not as substantial as the damage it caused on maize.
The Fall armyworm is primarily a pest of maize. If maize is not available it will look for sorghum. If both are not available, Suby said, it will attack other grass crops.
The scholar noted two pests namely the Mythimna separata, the northern armyworm; and the Fall armyworm. Both look alike but the former eats a margin of crops; the latter leaves holes in the crop.
The official said that the Fall armyworm cannot be eradicated but can be managed. It spreads fast, for which an advisory at the right time with effective awareness programmes and timely intervention, can help in containing damage on crops.
Further, seed treatment is a must in areas where the pest is established and year-round maize cultivation is practised. If seed treatment is not done, she recommended, spraying neem-based formulation is advised.