The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has stepped in to assist Sri Lanka control a worm that has spread throughout the country damaging maize cultivation.
The worm had damaged thousands of acres of maize and threatened to harm rice crops, the organisation said on Thursday, January 24, 2019.
More than 40,000 hectares, or half of the country’s maize, have been destroyed by the pest known as fall armyworm, or spodoptera frugiperda.
The worm has gradually started spreading to other crops.
“In the absence of natural control or good management, the (fall armyworm) can cause significant damage to crops and affect the livelihoods of farmers.
“Once established in a new area, (fall armyworm) cannot be practically eradicated,’’ read an FAO statement.
The FAO said it had shared background information on the pest with Sri Lanka and presented a range of options available that don’t require hazardous pesticides and minimise the use of chemical pesticides.
Farmers have taken to the streets in some areas demanding compensation and a quick solution to controlling the pest’s spread.
The worm has already affected cultivation in mostly the eastern, north central and south eastern parts of the country.
Agriculture Minister P Harrison said the government proposed paying compensation to the affected farmers, while trying all chemical and biological controls possible for the pest, which is believed to have spread from India. Sri Lanka has been concerned that the pest could spread to paddy lands, affecting production of rice, the country’s main staple.