GUWAHATI, Sept 12 - A crisis of unprecedented proportions has hit the State�s agriculture, with rice swarming caterpillars (Spodoptera mauritia) descending on cropland in their millions and destroying paddy (Sali) spread over thousands of hectares.
Coming close on the heels of large-scale flood-induced crop damage, the new menace stands to cripple the farmers unless contained immediately.
The pests have so far affected a total of 17,418 hectares of cropland in ten districts, with Golaghat accounting for the maximum of 6,671 hectares, followed by Dibrugarh with 5,000 hectares, Sivasagar with 2,800 hectares, and Jorhat with 1,200 hectares. The other affected districts are Barpeta (550 hectares), Nalbari (370 hectares), Kokrajhar (300 hectares), North Lakhimpur (300 hectares), Majuli (200 hectares), and Dhubri 27 (hectares).
Such has been ferocity of the pest onslaught that they have raided paddy field after paddy field in quick time and spread rapidly to more and more areas.
Acknowledging the gravity of the situation, State Agriculture Minister Atul Bora today termed the situation as an �unprecedented epidemic� and said that measures including spraying of pesticides were being initiated on a war-footing the tide over the crisis.
�This is a crisis situation and something unprecedented in the past four decades. And the pests have spread to more and cropland in very quick time. In fact, the pest attack was reported only a couple of days back,� Bora said at a press conference.
The last such rice swarming caterpillar raid on paddy was reported in Assam in 1967.
Bora said that all the officials had been issued strict instructions for visiting the paddy fields and actively engaging themselves in the fight against the pests. �Pesticides and spraying machines have been dispatched to all the affected areas. Any laxity on their part will be viewed seriously and action will be taken accordingly,� he added.