Virus from US to destroy Fall Army Worm | Sunday Observer

Virus from US to destroy Fall Army Worm

The authorities are testing a virus brought down from the United States to destroy the Fall Army Worm (Spodoptera frugiperda) commonly known as Sena Dalambuwa, Director General of Agriculture Dr. W.M.W. Weerakoon said. However, the virus will undergo intensive testing before being introduced to crops to avoid any negative effects.

“This is a biological material. We will not introduce it without proper testing. We have to first see if the virus is suitable for our environment,” Dr. Weerakoon said.

The Director General added that the Agriculture Department is also testing local bacteria to eradicate the Fall Army Worm. About three such bacteria have been identified, and trials are under way. He said that the precautionary measures are successful. The authorities have advised farmers to use Neem (kohomba), ashes and certain pesticides.

The Agriculture Department is also looking for ways to attract the male caterpillar to destroy the species.

Maize cultivation was first affected by the Fall Army Worm, native species of the Americas, in early October last year and it grew over the months becoming an invasive pest. In the same month, the Ministry of Agriculture issued a warning to farmers in the North Western and North Central provinces about the Fall Army Worm invasion. Dr. Weerakoon said farmers who cultivated maize early in the season are less affected than those who were late to do so. He cited the ongoing drought as a key reason for this.

“Also the caterpillar has evolved now. With the precautionary measures in place, we see it eating only the leaves of the crops. The yield is fairly better than expected,” he added. The Fall Army Worm is believed to have come with the wind from India to Sri Lanka.

Pic: Thilak Perera