NORTH LAKHIMPUR, Sept 23 - Army worms have destroyed several hectares of paddy fields in Lakhimpur district which had just recovered from devastating floods and erosion in July last. The peasants who had planted the rice seedlings for the second time after the floods, are now facing attacks by worms that are now destroying the grown-up paddy. It has been noticed that the areas mostly hit by floods this year in Lakhimpur district are affected by the pests. The worms have destroyed standing crops of paddy in villages like Paanbari, Temera, Mermukh, Dhalpur, Bonpuroi and Jamuguri under Narayanpur Agriculture Circle in Lakhimpur. Similarly, paddy fields in villages like Bodoti, Morrisa Pathar, Laholiyal and Dhunaguri in Bihpuria Agriculture Circle have been affected by the paddy swarming caterpillar. In Laluk Agricultural Circle, the swarming pests have destroyed paddy in a wide area in Laluk and Bangalmara. Fourteen villages including Saalmara, Sonapur, Doolahaat and Kalakhowa under Nowboicha Agriculture Circle have also come under attack of the menacing worms. The paddy swarming caterpillars have also devastated a wide agriculture area in Lahan-Bahadur and Gharmara under North Lakhimpur Agriculture Circle as well as in Panigaon and Bosagaon under the Panigaon Agriculture Circle. In Dhakuakhana subdivision, the pests have destroyed paddy fields of several hundred hectares in Amulguri and Govindapur villages under Dimaruguri GP. The worst-affected agriculture circle in Lakhimpur district in paddy swarming caterpillar is the Narayanpur circle where 2500 hectares of paddy field have been affected. Similarly, 400 hectares of paddy field in Bihpuria-Laluk circle, 130 hectares in Nowboicha circle and 110 hectares each in North Lakhimpur and Dhakuakhana agriculture circle have been affected by this pest attack.
Scientists and agriculture experts are attributing this phenomenon to climate change experienced by this region over the years and the change of the agricultural method from traditional plough to mechanised one. The changing pattern of rainfall and increase in temperature over the years is mostly responsible for the increase of paddy eating worms in this region. Lakhimpur district which falls in the North Bank Plain Zone of Assam along with five other districts has been witnessing a fluctuating annual rainfall pattern. According to the data available at the Meteorological Society of India, Lakhimpur district always has a surplus rainfall rate over the State's average which is 2294.0 mm. In the year 2004, the average annual rainfall in Lakhimpur district was 3178.400 mm. It went below 3000.0 mm in 2005 and 2006. But in 2007, the district recorded 3245.800 mm of annual rainfall which again decreased to 2365.300 mm in 2009. Again in 2010 the annual rainfall increased to 3267.700 mm only to fall drastically to 2365.600 mm in 2013. This year Assam witnessed a 25% deficit in rainfall for the period from June 1, 2016 to July 27, 2016. But this did not stop the State from heavy floods in which Lakhimpur was one of the worst affected districts. The flood which had destroyed most of the paddy fields with newly planted seedlings forced the peasants to go for a second planting when the rain receded. But a month long dry spell in the month of August made things worse for the peasants as it provided the ideal atmosphere for the worms to spread.
According to chief scientist Dr. Kishore Sarma, Regional Agriculture Research Station North Lakhimpur, of Assam Agricultural University, the larva produced by the butterfly in the rainy season in the paddy fields are usually consumed by fishes, frogs and other aquatic species in waterlogged conditions. However, Dr Sarma says, since the month of August witnessed a drought, all the paddy fields in the flood-affected areas became dry and all the natural enemies of the larva died. Also contributed was the favourable temperature above 32 degree Celsius. All these allowed the larva of the worms to survive and contributed in their abnormal rise in population as caterpillars. Similarly, the switch over from traditional plough of the paddy fields to tractor driven one increased the chances of the larva to survive as they are least exposed to the sunlight and predatory birds like egrets.