Experts at a seminar called for applying integrated management techniques to tackle the fall armyworm, which was damaging a wide variety of crops and inflicting economic losses worth millions of rupees.
Presiding over a seminar arranged by the Department of Entomology, University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF), its Vice-Chancellor Professor Dr Muhammad Ashraf said locust and hefty rains had already caused heavy losses to the agriculture sector. “After that, the fall armyworm has emerged as the biggest challenge,” he stated. Ashraf said armyworm was an invasive pest that could damage many crops including corn, wheat, cotton, sugarcane and others. Integrated pest management including chemical, biological control and others should be applied to combat the situation, he added.
The UAF vice-chancellor stressed that strategies needed to be developed to overcome the pest at the initial level.
He highlighted that unavailability of quality seeds, fertiliser and climate change were hampering the achievement of desired outcome from the country’s agricultural potential.
Shedding light on other agricultural issues, Ashraf said the market was flooded with uncertified seeds. “They are not only reducing our production but are also putting a dent on the farmers’ income,” he lamented. He suggested that the strengthened academia-industry linkages would pave the way for addressing the agricultural problems. Quoting the example of Singapore, the vice-chancellor said “it is a small country, but it has been proving its mettle in economic development with a knowledge-based economy”.
Entomology Department Chairman Dr Sohail Ahmad informed seminar participants that they had surveyed the infected areas. “No nation can make progress without effective research and development (R&D) activities,” he said.
Ahmad pointed out that the fall armyworm larvae ate the lower surface of leaves. “Damage mostly appears in patches. The larvae feed on the green leafy material and, in case of a severe attack, veins are only left behind.”
Ahmad emphasised that the country must put in place a prompt surveillance system. Dr Amer Rasul suggested that it was better to avoid late plantation and staggered plantation as that would continue to provide favourite food for the fall armyworm. He said good soil health and adequate moisture were essential to grow a healthy crop, which could better fight the pest. Rasul elaborated that there were different types of fall armyworm and “we have to identify them”, adding that such seminars would pave the way for developing strategies to address the issue at the national level.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2020.
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