The Fall Armyworm, for tackling which the Centre has launched a new website, can eat 186 species of plants from 42 families
Union Minster of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Parshottam Rupala launched a dedicated website on August 2, 2019 (www.fallarmyworm.org.in
) to help farmers fight against the dreaded Fall Armyworm (FAW).
FAW (Spodoptera frugiperda) is an invasive and polyphagous (feeding on many foods) pest. It can attack cereals and forage grasses.
FAW is recorded as eating 186 plant species from 42 families. Global scientists have already warned that the FAW ‘invasion’ will be global and potentially put the world’s food security at risk.
India had to import maize in order to meet the demand of the poultry and animal feed industries after FAW destroyed the country’s maize crop in 2018. Scientists have also confirmed the presence of FAW in four sugarcane fields of two Tamil Nadu districts.
The Centre’s website will carry tips and useful information to prevent and control FAW. The website will carry information on pheromone traps and lures to detect FAW at a very early stage of infestation.
Also, farmers can buy safety kits, masks and gloves for effective management of FAW.
“This website will help support farmers in successfully curbing FAW in India through knowledge empowerment,” Bhagirath Choudhary, director of the South Asia Biotechnology Centre, who started an awareness campaign named Saffal to inform farmers about how to control FAW, said.
‘Saffal’ stands for ‘Safeguarding Agriculture and Farmers against Fall Armyworm’. It is conducting a country-wide farmers’ awareness programme on FAW in major maize-growing states such as Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
“If we do not encourage farmers, our country will become a net importer of maize, which will lead to huge losses for the state exchequer. It will also hit the flourishing feed industries hard,” Choudhary added.
Besides tips and information, the website on FAW contains data on control strategies, alerts & advisories issued by various organisations, a Saffal FAW help centre, research resources, and information from international and national institutions.
“An interesting feature of the website is an interactive map showing the FAW experts’ network, providing the details of maize experts who can be reached for advice and guidance to control FAW all over India,” Raju Kapoor, director, public and industry affairs, FMC Corporation, an agriculture science company engaged in providing innovative solution to farmers across the globe, told Down To Earth.
Rupala has also launched the website in Gujarati to help Gujarat farmers, who grow maize on 600,000 hectares. The largest maize-producing state in India is Karnataka.
Experts also called for reduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on equipment such as pheromone traps and lures, to make them more affordable to farmers.
“Some suitable agrochemicals, pesticides and kits currently attract a GST of 18 per cent, Botanicals and biologicals, that have neem extracts, attract a GST of 5-12 per cent,” said Choudhary.
He added: “The government needs to step in now and exempt pesticides, pheromone traps and lures and other accessories such as safety kits, masks and gloves for effective management of FAW from GST. It would be next logical step after the launch of the website.”