National Maize Research Programme, based in Rampur of Chitwan district, has embarked on undertaking a research for the prevention and control of fall armyworm – a type of pest which poses a serious threat to grain outputs.

Scientists and technicians working in the field of agriculture have been hell bent on carrying out the research to control the pest, which has been sporadically broken out across the country. The researchers have been collecting larvae of the armyworm for research.

Swarms of the fall armyworm, which entered Nepal in previous years have destroyed corn crops across the country.

A scientist of the research programme, scientist Ghanashyam Bhandari said they have collected larvae of the notorious caterpillar species to lessen the loss the pest can inflict.

Larvae of the worm are more active during the night. They lay eggs on the surface of lower leaves but sometimes on the upper part of leaves.

A worm lays 150-200 eggs on the corn leaves. Bhandari shared that the worm can lay 1,500 to 2,000 eggs during its life span of 15-21 days.

“Collecting its eggs would therefore be instrumental in preventing the spread of the worm,” he said, adding that it would lessen the damage and reduce the use of chemical pesticides on farms.”

There are 150-200 eggs on the surface of a leaf. Therefore, plucking the leaves having the larvae and their proper management could prevent the worm from inflicting much damage, Bhandari further explained. The first case of the pest was reported from Nawalparasi district of western Nepal on 9 May 2019.

Because the pest’s favourite crop, maize is the second most cultivated food crop in terms of area and production after rice in Nepal, the pest may damage a lot of farmland across the country. The National Maize Research Programme was initiated in Rampur in 1962. As part of the programme, research and development of various species of maize has been undertaken in the area stretching over 65 bigha land.

National Maize Research Programme Coordinator Dr Keshab Babu Koirala said various pests have been causing damage to the corn crop during its production and storage. “Different 55 types of worms inflict damage to maize crops.

We are undertaking research to prevent the intrusion of pests,” he said, adding the research has come up with some positive findings.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on October 2, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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