Fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), an invasive insect which had severely affected maize crops in Africa has now spread to fields in Karnataka. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research-National Bureau of Agricultural Insect Resources (ICAR-NBAIR) members found fall armyworm in maize crop during the second week of July in Thanjavur district of Karnataka. This was the first time the pest was detected in Asia, which was previously reported in Africa two years back. The pest is also said to infest other crops like millets and paddy.
Fall armyworm, which eats away the maize stalks would directly affect the productivity. An official of the Agriculture department told “The pest was found in a maize meadow in Nainankulam in Pattukkottai taluk in a 20-day-old crop". The pest eats away the chlorophyll of the plants turning the leaves white, said the official.
One could also see oval-shaped holes in the leaves as the pest eats away parts of it. Moreover, the 3rd to 6th stage caterpillars of the pest would eat away the crop stalks. Consequently, small crops get affected. The officials have suggested introduction of bio-pesticides such as beauveria bassiana, bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and metarhizium anisopliae to stop these pets from spreading. They also advised integrated pest management methods like summer ploughing, split application of nitrogenous fertilizer, synchronized early sowing and destruction of egg larvae in fields.