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Fall Army Worm Attack in India

Fall Army Worm Attack in India

Tag:GS3 || Environment || Geography and environment || Agriculture

Why in news ?

  • The Department has taken note of Fall Army Worm (FAW) infestation in the country. The infestation has been found primarily on maize and to a small extent on Ragi and Sorghum.

What is FAW?

  • A native of the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the Americas, FAW was first detected in the African continent in 2016. Since then, it has spread to other countries such as China, Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.
  • In India: It was reported in India for the first-time last year, when it affected crops in Karnataka. Within a span of only six months, almost 50 per cent of the country, including Mizoram, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal, has reported FAW infestations.

Life cycle:

  • In its 45-day-long lifecycle, the female moth of this pest lays around 1,500-2,000 eggs on the top of leaves. In the roughly 30-day larval stage, the caterpillar goes through six stages of development or instars.
  • This is the most dangerous part of the lifecycle as the caterpillar feeds on leaves, whorls, stalks and flowers of crop plants. Once this stage is completed, the growing moth pupates in the soil — for 8-9 days in summer and 20-30 days in cold weather. The nocturnal egg-laying adults live for about 10 days, during which they migrate long distances.

What makes FAW dangerous?

  • It is the polyphagous (ability to feed on different kinds of food) nature of the caterpillar and the ability of the adult moth to fly more than 100 km per night.
  • Given its ability to feed on multiple crops — nearly 80 different crops ranging from maize to sugarcane — FAW can attack multiple crops.
  • Similarly, it can spread across large tracts of land as it can fly over large distances. This explains the quick spread of the pest across India.

How FAW affects output?

  • Till date, India has reported FAW infestation on maize, sorghum (jowar) and sugarcane crops. Maize has been the worst affected as most maize-growing states in southern India have been affected by the pest.
  • FAW infestation and drought has led to a shortfall of nearly 5 lakh tonnes in output, prompting the central government to allow import of maize under concessional duty. Maize is the third most important cereal crop grown in the country and the infestation, if not checked in time, can wreck havoc.