From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Fall Army Worm
Mains level : New threats leading to crop failure
- The Union Government is considering several steps to control the spread of Fall Army Worm in many states.
- Fall armyworm, first detected in maize fields in India last year, can wreak havoc across crops without timely government action.
- Its moths were totally different from oriental armyworm.
- This pest was known to strike once every 10-12 years.
- Native to the Americas, FAW has, since 2016, been aggressively moving eastwards, infesting Africa and making landfall in India last summer.
- It propagates similar to an army that “marches” slowly forward and consumes any foliage on the way.
- Unlike oriental armyworm, FAW isn’t a cyclical pest that comes intermittently.
- Instead, it is a continuous pest that is nearly always present and can build permanent populations.
- Not only is it a far more serious threat, but the measures to control the pest are also ad hoc.
- Within India, FAW attacks have already been reported from even Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, while causing damage to the maize, jowar (sorghum) and, to a limited extent, sugarcane crops in these states.
Why FAW are more dangerous?
- Both oriental armyworm and FAW are polyphagous; their larvae feed on a range of host crop plants.
- The former, though, does not spread very fast, which is why the damage from it in 2017 and even 2018 was largely confined to Karnataka.
- The adult FAW moth, in contrast, can fly up to 100 km distance every night, allowing it to invade new geographies very quickly.
- Besides, an adult female can lay 1,500-2,000 eggs during her entire life cycle of 45 days, as against 100-200 eggs by the oriental armyworm.
How to identify them?
- Pheromones are natural compounds emitted by female FAW moths to attract males for mating.
- Pheromone traps basically use synthetic versions of these compounds to attract and catch male moths, which can, then, be counted to detect any significant FAW presence.