Armyworm invasion ruins vegetables, corn in Banke

Armyworm invasion ruins vegetables, corn in Banke

Vegetables and corn growing on more than 250 hectares of farmland at Hirminia in Banke district have been devastated by an armyworm invasion (“faujikira”). Armyworms infest corn, tomato, pepper, carrot, ladyfinger and leafy summer plants. Farmers were particularly concerned that the armyworm invasion took place during their prime vegetable harvesting time. It could affect the income of a large number of farmers this season, they said.

The larvae of this insect disperse in large numbers and consume leaf tissue of plants from one side and damage the entire plant in no time. They have been named armyworm for this reason. Farmers said they had not seen this insect before, and after this “unknown pest” started damaging crops, they became worried that the infestation could spread if not controlled in time. Presently, the insects have affected more than 50 percent of the vegetables and they have been seen gradually spreading to corn plants. Vegetables are grown on more than 250 hectares in Hirminia while corn is grown on 600 hectares. The farms here fulfil the vegetable requirement of Banke district.

They have also played a significant role in substituting imports with locally grown produce. The insect problem started last week, according to farmers. They said that initially they were not aware of the bugs as they attack the plants during the night and hide in the roots during the day. Armyworms often go unnoticed until plant injury becomes severe. They only feed at night. After farmers were unable to find a remedy to the outbreak, they appealed for help to the District Agricultural Office. “As farmers saw their standing crops falling overnight, they initially applied pesticides. However, after the infestation could not be controlled, they finally approached the office,” said Sakil Ahmad, a plant protection officer at the District Agricultural Office. “After we received their complaint, we found out that there was an armyworm invasion in the area.” He added that the insects had affected vegetables most and were starting to destroy corn plants.

Armyworms are generally migratory species that may fly great distances when the weather begins to warm up. It is wise to plant crops like corn, bean, pea, potato and tomato as early in the spring as possible to avoid large infestations. Agro scientists said that once the worms have exceeded 1-2 inches in length, they become more difficult to control. They usually have dark heads and are tan to green in colour. Parsuram Rawat, chief of the regional plant protection laboratory in Khujara, said that as an armyworm invasion had been confirmed in the area, free pesticides were distributed to farmers on Tuesday. “Efforts have been made to control the invasion and prevent it from spreading to other areas.” Farmers are particularly concerned the armyworm invasion took place during their prime vegetable harvesting time.

Source: The Kathmandu Post