CHENNAI: With maize cultivation getting heavily affected by invasive pest Fall Armyworm, the Tamil Nadu government has embarked on large-scale ground spraying of bio-pesticides/chemicals in the entire area of maize cultivation in the state. The state agriculture department has engaged the services of Madras Institute of Technology of Anna University to avail drones for aerial spraying of pesticides on a pilot basis in Perambalur district . In rest of the districts, it will be manually done by farmer groups.
In the first phase, two sprays will be done at an interval of 15-20 days and 40-45 days in 86,656 hectares at a cost of 5,500 per hectare. The state agriculture department on Wednesday unveiled the massive exercise at a cost of 47.66 crore.
This comes close on the heels of announcing a compensatory package of 186.25 crore to the maize growers across the state. Polyphagous lepidopteron, an exotic pest which has a wide host range of 80 plant species, is causing major damage to the crop. The incidences of damage were reported in all parts of southern India, and it was first noticed in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana and Tamil Nadu since July last year.
The attack was initially noticed in districts like Perambalur, Ariyalur, Cuddalore, Vellore , Villupuram, Trichy, Dindigul and Madurai, the high production areas for millets.
Even though the area under cultivation during last fiscal was 60,000 hectares more than the preceding financial year, the productivity fell to 6,614kg/hectare as per the fourth advanced estimates. In 2017-18, the productivity was 7,986kg/hectare and the production stood at 25.916 lakh tonnes.
"While the area of cultivation increased to 3.828 lakh hectares last year, the impact of the pest brought down the productivity. We just managed a yield of 25.119 lakh tonnes. There was a loss of four to five lakh tonnes," said an official.
This year, the pest attack has been noticed in about 1 lakh hectares so far.
R Raja Chidambaram , a maize grower of Pudukkottai, said that appropriate efforts should be taken before spraying. It should not be an eyewash, he cautioned. "The yield was very poor last year," he said.