SIVASAGAR, Sept 12 - Swarms of armyworms (Spodoptera mauritia) have caused a major threat to the rice cultivators of Sivasagar district destroying large tracts of paddy fields in Gaurisagar, Demow and Kowarpur blocks.
The District Agriculture Dept and the Krishi Vigayn Kendra(KVK) have through a series of awareness meetings, advised the affected farmers on pest control measures with available resources to contain the menace. Arup Borthakur, DAO, Sivasagar informed that 1550 bighas of standing crops in Sivasagar Revenue Circle and 1225 bighas in Amguri Revenue Circle have been damaged so far. He added that the department has exhausted its store of 600 litres of pesticides and has asked the head office to send more. Borthakur said he is apprehensive of large-scale crop damage in Assam if the spread of the pest is not checked.
According to Dr Phuleswar Nath, Programme coordinator, KVK, Sivasagar, the Spodoptera mauritia swarms were first recorded in Hawai in 1953 and it later spread to different parts of the tropical areas. The larva of the insect within 12 to 14 days can eat up the green paddy leaves of a large area of plantation. It is seen usually in low-lying paddy fields when there is heavy rainfall between dry heat spells. Subject Specialists from KVK, have urged the affected farmers to adopt both chemical insecticides, nematicides and traditional ways also like planting sticks in the paddy fields to facilitate insect- eating birds like the shrikes, owls to perch, besides using kerosene oil in the waterlogged areas to destroy the larva and eggs of the insects.