Worms Aren’t Farmer’s Friends Anymore

Capstone Environment Taluk

Forty thousand hectares of Manvi taluk have maize and sorghum crops out of which  50 to 60 per cent of these farms have army worm’s problems.

By Tejendra Parmar

Bengaluru, April 20, 2019

Frightened and tired, dismayed and angry, farmers from Kavithal, a small village in Manvi taluk of Raichur district, have been toiling and trying to save their crops from being ruined. They fear that they pursuing a losing battle and their drudge are in futile. Farmers are worried because their crops have destroyed from root to leaf even the crop output is also reduced. They have spent a lot of money for nothing. This year, the loss of a crop is the curse for the farmers that they never faced before as they have to sow again.

With a pale face, sitting at the corner of the Agriculture Department of Manvi taluk, Chand Kumar, a 42-year-old farmer in burden with his family demands has laid down hope as he faced heavy losses during the season when he can make the most profit of his investment.

“I have five acres of land. I grow maize and sorghum crops here but this year crop was affected by the worms. I brought that agricultural adviser here and showed him the condition of the crops. I asked him which pesticide to use for this problem.I invested one lakh twenty five thousand for these crops but I didn’t gain any profit and moreover I am in loss of ten thousand rupees. These fall army worms and less rainfall are the two reasons for my loss. From the subsidized seeds and fertilizer given by the government agriculture department didn’t help me with that. Even less rainfall has pushed me in to the losses. This is affected so much that we don’t even have proper food to feed the cows.” Said, chand Kumar

Fall Armyworm is a caterpillar that can destroy a wide variety of crops. Its major staple is sorghum and maize. Its scientific name is Spodoptera frugiperda. These worms produce 1000 to 1500 eggs that are the most significant risk and issue there. The major problem is these worms produce eggs on leaves. The problem develops because adult moth of these deadly worms migrates rapidly, almost several hundred kilometers in 21 days of life span and even more quickly before laying eggs.

“In the Raichur district of Karnataka, these army worms infection has been seen everywhere in the manvi taluk. Therefore to control this issue the whole team has come out for the extension work and we are convincing the farmers as much as we can. Mass control measures has to be taken with the farmers if the single farmer takes the steps it want help to the farming community so we are recommending the pesticides also we are recommending some bio control measures as well as some cultural practices like how the farmers have to take the management of this insect. These insects can lay down around 1000 to 1500 eggs in a group of 90 to 100. Its outbreak is reported in all the fields where the sorghum is sowed. The severity varies, in the mature crop the severity is more but in the 15 days to 20 days crop the severity is less, so severity also varies from 0 to 50 per cent. In this way, we are advising the farmers to take control measures.” said, Nasir Ahmad Head of Agricultural department of Manvi

The farmers are in very much trouble. These worms have become a headache for the farmers as they can’t sleep peacefully at night because the worms are spreading at an alarming pace and have become a menace for them. They are worried, facing money losses and even many families are despair because of the worm. Forty per cent of farmers sowed maize and sorghum seeds after the first rainfall previous year, but most of the crops are going in waste. They don’t know what it’s called, but they have submitted a sample of the pest and the leaves of the damaged crops to the District agriculture department to obtain the pesticides. Farmers are advised to spray a mixture of emamectine benzoate with other different pesticides to control and manage the spread of these dangerous worms. Again, this is expansive for the small scale farmers as they have to spend 10 to 15 thousand rupees on average per every hectare.

Two years after its first detection in West Africa in 2016, this invasive caterpillar has threatened the food security of millions of small farmers in the African countries. Previously the pest destroyed thousands of hectares of maize crops across the 44 nations in the African continent. According to Centre for Agriculture and Bio science International (CABI), the worms could potentially cause maize yield losses in a range from 8.3 to 20.6 million tons annually in Africa, damage to maize alone is estimated to be between USD$ 2.5 – 6.2 billion per year. These army worms have been as of late announced in various parts of Karnataka and beforehand also different parts of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Gujarat. Researchers state that the pest either migrated from American or African countries or entered in India via import-export. It may have arrived in Karnataka either from the neighboring port state of Andhra Pradesh or through cargo planes which landed at Kempegowda International Airport.

In the African and American countries, they used chemical and natural ways to control this army worm problem. These include the use of inter-cropping technology, natural enemies, early warning systems and the use of bio pesticides. In the chemical ways, they considered pesticides use against this infestation. But the chemical response was however expensive and often out of reach of most small scale farmers. On the other hand, Natural ways to fight this worm was an efficient and appropriate approach for them. For instance, the use of the natural enemies of a pest, as army worms has several enemies like predators, parasitoids and pathogens. Apart from that to deal with this same outbreak, first they knew the extent of the problem and then provided a rapid response to the African smallholder farmers.

According to the data collected from agriculture department of Manvi, the whole taluk has total 46,633 hectares of maize and sorghum crops, out of which 41,810 hectares of plants are being affected and destroyed by the fall army worms. Villages like Halli, Hosur Umli, Nira Manvi, Machnur, potanhal, Kavithal, Shakapur, Ganidanni, Kowtal, including Chikalparavi, 40 thousand hectares have maize and sorghum crops. In which 50 to 60 per cent of these farms have army worm’s problems.

With climate change and increased movement of goods and people, most smallholder farmers can’t diagnose crop problems quickly and often have no means or knowledge to control these pests. There, emerging pests have worsened an already severe problem. In such a scenario, in the states where the pest has previously been detected need to find a solution for that. Therefore, the agriculture department of Manvi started a mass awareness campaign to build awareness among farmers, on how to recognize the various stages of the insect and to manage it with the right solution. The agriculture department team including the head of the department, they started going farm to farm on the emphasis of generating awareness and not panic.

They have done awareness through various traditional mediums like pamphlets, posters, radio and television broadcast as well as SMS and social media network whenever they noticed these worms in any field. Even the eggs which lay by these worms, farmers have trained to recognize and destroy the egg masses to prevent the caterpillar from emerging. Later, Agriculture department has taken the responsibility of the affected farmers and have been feeding them with the information and provided them with 50 per cent of subsidies on the pesticides to limit the infestation and to eradicate the pest.

Eventually, After a long fight, Farmers saw their crops on the height of 6 feet, which they never thought before. But the problem is recurring. They don’t have any idea what will happen in the next season.

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