Kathmandu, May 25 The American armyworm has severely affected maize farming across the country this year as compared to previous year, hitting farmers who have already had to bear the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic. According to Centre for Crop Development and Agro Bio-Diversity Conservation under the Department of Agriculture, armyworm has destroyed maize farms in more than 40 districts this year. However, the effect is comparatively less in Sudurpaschim and Karnali provinces. The outbreak of armyworm is likely to increase, said Ram Krishna Shrestha, chief of the centre. “Compared to the previous year, we are receiving more reports of the armyworm affecting maize from all the seven provinces this year. The Tarai region particularly has been affected massively and probably the armyworm will have an impact in the hilly regions too,” he added. Generally, farmers in the hilly regions cultivate maize during the monsoon. This year, the armyworm was first detected in Nawalparasi. It has now spread to Chitwan, Banke, Rupandehi, Kanchanpur, Kailali, Syangja, Palpa, Gulmi, Dang and Pyuthan, among others. As per Shrestha, the outbreak of the armyworm in the country has been seen since 2016 and as maize is an all-season crop, the armyworm is likely to affect production this year. “According to the report we have received so far, the armyworm has destroyed 20 per cent to 60 per cent maize farming this year,” he said, adding, “This year the impact has been really huge.” The impact of the armyworm can be reduced in its infant stage only. Once the outbreak spreads it is difficult to control it, Shrestha added. “For impact assessment, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD) has formed a taskforce and all the provincial and local governments have been directed to compile the damage report and take the initiative to disseminate awareness,” he added. Besides maize, the armyworm can also destroy wheat, sugarcane, millet, paddy, cabbage, onion and tomatoes, among others. “Farmers have to be more aware and give more time to their crops,” he said, adding, “MoALD has received reports that due to the fear of losing their crops, farmers are using pesticides randomly which can make the armyworm resistant to the pesticides and cause further damage." He further mentioned that although using pesticides is the last option to control the outbreak, it would be better to take care of the maize from the day one of cultivation. Shrestha claimed that the government is trying to spread awareness regarding the armyworm and how to control it. However, the outbreak is increasing massively and might affect the production this year. As per MoALD, maize was cultivated over 954,000 hectares of land across the country from which a total of 2.5 million tonnes of maize was produced in the previous fiscal year.
A version of this article appears in e-paper on May 26, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.