Dec 28, Colombo: The Minister of Agriculture, P. Harrison has instructed officials to obtain the assistance of all sectors, including academics, to take immediate steps to control and suppress the spreading fall armyworm (FAW) infestation.
The Department of Agriculture has confirmed that the fall armyworm caterpillars are rapidly spreading in all parts of the island seriously threatening the maize cultivations.
This species of caterpillars, known as the "Fall Armyworm", was first detected in Nigeria and in India last year. The caterpillar is now spreading in the maize cultivations in number of areas in Sri Lanka.
Already 35,000 acres of maize in Ampara area have been damaged due to the fall armyworm infestation. The caterpillar infestation has been detected in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kurunegala and Monaragala areas where the maize is predominantly grown.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in the larval stage, the FAW causes damage to crops, feeding on more than 80 plant species. Although the caterpillar primarily attacks maize, it can also destroy rice and sorghum as well as cotton and some vegetables and up to 1000 acres in one day.
Also the moth can fly up to 100 km per night and the female moth can lay up to 200 eggs at one time. The suppression of the insect was a challenge to every country they were reported, due to their ability to quickly adapt to insecticides.
However, the Ministry of Agriculture has set up a Task Force to face the scourge of caterpillars.
The Department of Agriculture has recommended four types of pesticides for the control of the caterpillar and the Agriculture Ministry has also taken step to provide a 50 percent subsidy for pesticides.
Minister Harrison has instructed the Secretary to the Agriculture Ministry KDS Ruwanchandra yesterday (27) to take all the necessary measures to control the FAW infestation.
The Minister instructed the official to take measures according to the suggestions and ideas of the officials of the Department of Agriculture, environmentalists and all the experts who are interested in controlling the menace and follow all practical solutions to eradicate the caterpillars.
In addition, the Minister instructed to deploy all Agriculture Officers to areas where Infestations of fall armyworm have been reported to provide support for farmers to eradicate the caterpillar menace.
The Agriculture Minister is scheduled to visit the areas affected by Fall Armyworms in Anuradhapura district to observe the infestations in paddy fields and has instructed the officials to join him.