JORHAT, Sept 15 - Large-scale attacks by swarming caterpillars have affected thousands of farmers in all the 13 agricultural circles in Jorhat district since the past few days. The pests could not be controlled with pesticides in many areas due to frequent rainfall.
Affected farmers said that the rain washed away the chemicals from the leaves and stems of paddy plants in many fields. Such widespread pest infestation has not been witnessed in the State since the past several decades.
Citing official records, district-level officials of the State Agriculture Department pointed out that since 1963, the State had not witnessed such widespread pest attacks in the peak of the paddy growing season.
�In 1963, such a situation had occurred in the paddy fields of Assam. As many as 1,800 hectares of paddy fields in Jorhat district have been affected by caterpillars so far,� said District Agriculture Officer Dr Birendra Nath Sarma.
The worst-affected areas have been identified as Elengmora, Dhekorgorah, Teok, Selenghat, Bahona, Dohotia, Mariani and some pockets of Titabor and Borholla.
According to Dr Sarma, the infestation was controlled in 700 hectares though the spray of pesticides.
Meanwhile, in Golaghat district, 5,672 hectares of paddy fields have been affected by pests, official statistics stated.
The Deputy Commissioners of both Jorhat and Golaghat districts have stressed the need of pest management procedures with the help of Agriculture officials. Most of the affected areas in Golaghat district belong to Bokakhat subdivision.
Expressing concern over the devastating attacks of pests on agricultural fields, scientists of the Assam Agricultural University here said that the hot weather conditions in August were conducive to the growth of caterpillars, whose numbers increased to several lakhs in the affected fields. The scientists suggested a systematic procedure for the spray of selected pesticides at the time of incessant rainfall.