AIZWAL: The fall armyworm (FAW), an insect indigenous to the Americas, has caused an estimated loss of Rs 20 crore to maize cultivation in over 130 villages in Mizoram, officials said on Wednesday.
The Mizoram government has informed the Centre about the loss, said an official of the Agriculture Department.
"FAW was detected last year in several states prompting the Centre to alert state governments of possible insect attack. The state's agriculture department immediately warned all its district offices and special squads were set up in all eight districts even before the constitution of Rapid Response Team last month," Agriculture Department Director Rohmingthanga Colney told the media.
The department has distributed pesticides to maize cultivators and also made efforts to educate the farmers on how to use pesticides more effectively.
Colney said that the state's Central Integrated Pest Management Centre is also working in consultation with the Central government's Directorate of Plant Protection Quarantine and Storage.
A series of meetings were held between Chief Minister Zoramthanga and the Agriculture Minister C. Lalrinsanga over the outbreak and find ways how to deal with it.
"The department has advised maize farmers to avoid large-scale using of chemical pesticides which are not recommended by the agriculture experts and also to carefully follow instructions for mixing and using them," an official release of the Agriculture Department said.
Mizoram is one of the top producers of maize in India. In 2017-18, the state produced about 9,470 metric tonnes of maize. According to the Agriculture Department officials, FAW has so far affected 2,424 hectares of the 3,439 hectares of maize cultivation across all eight districts of the state.
"As per the initial estimate, the loss of maize due to the FAW attack was around Rs 20 crore, but it is likely to escalate further if the outbreak is not fully brought under control at the earliest," the official added.
Mizoram shares borders with Bangladesh and Myanmar, where the FAW outbreak was reported early this year.
In Arunachal Pradesh, FAW attack to standing crops was reported from some parts of the state. A report from the College of Horticulture and Forestry in East Siang District has said that the highly invasive pest has been found in maize in its campus.
"The insect can attack a wide range of crops including rice, sugarcane and vegetables. The occurrence of FAW attack is severe and can multiply in geometric proportions within no time," an agriculture department official of the Arunachal Pradesh government said.