Agriculture Knowledge Center officials inspect a fall armyworm-infested maize field in Tumbewa, Panchthar. Photo: Republica
PANCHTHAR, Sept 9: American fall armyworm has become a nuisance for farmers in the hilly areas of Province 1, of late. The pest which was earlier found in Okhaldhunga in the mid-hills has been spreading widely because of lack of mechanism for its control.
The pest destroys leaves and fruits of crops. The villages that were earlier affected because of drought are now suffering due to this pest.
The pest has already troubled farmers in Okhaldhunga, Bhojpur, Panchthar, Tehrathum, Dhankuta, Bhojpur, Khotang, and Ilam. It spreads most rapidly in maize plants.
The district-based Agriculture Knowledge Center said that the pest has mostly attacked millet and paddy farms. Agricultural technicians said that there was high risk of the pest reaching other fields. They said that the pest has been seen for the first time in Nepal.
There is no mechanism to control this pest so far. According to Benu Prasain, chief of the Directorate of Agriculture Development of Province 1, the impact of fall armyworm is mostly found in the hilly regions. “If it reaches the tarai region, the effect will be more severe,” Prasain said.
The provincial government is currently working on the identification of problem and recommendation of proper pesticide. “As it is a new kind of problem, it is taking some time,” said Prasain. He said that the community’s help was essential to find out the solution. “The effect is quite challenging,” he said.
It is said that the pest spreads faster in warmer temperature.
Till date, Okhaldhunga district is the most affected. According to Bishnu Mani Pokhrel, chief of Agriculture Knowledge Center of the district, Manebhanjyang, and Dudhkoshi are the most affected areas. According to him, controlling the disease is very difficult as the pest’s larva spreads very quickly. The farms that were earlier affected due to drought are now hit by the worm, he added.
The effect is also found in all the wards of Hilebhanjyang, Modi, Thakle, and Sunkoshi. According to Pokhrel, the pest is spread in 500 hectares of land. The pest has been spreading for the last 20 days. “The effect is disastrous,” Pokhrel said.
Crops of Panchthar are also destroyed by the pest, mostly in Tumbewa and Kummayak areas. The downhill parts of Tumbewa Wards 1, 2, 4 and 5 are most hit.
“We have started distributing some pesticides in collaboration with local level bodies,” said Sagar Bista, officer of the Agriculture Knowledge Center. He said that the worm can fly 100 kilometers in one night. The pest flies only during the night, he said.
The pest is also troubling farmers in dry areas of Tehrathum and Dhankuta districts.