Armyworms damage early maize plantations in T/gang

Farmers say they are replanting their maize plants for the second time this year

Armyworm infestation has led many farmers of several gewogs in Trashigang to replant their maize plants.  

According to the farmers, armyworms have begun to damage their maize cultivation, which is at an initial stage, and it has forced them to replant their maize plants as they feel killing the worms would be a sin.

The Shongphu gewog’s agricultural official, Nim Dem said some villagers even came to get pesticides for armyworms this year.

“However, as per the field visits, the maize plants were in the early stage, so the villagers were told to replant the maize plants,” she said. .

“Many farmers were saying it is a sin to kill those worms using chemicals, so, for them, I have told them to pick and throw the worms as they are not willing to use pesticides,” Nim Dem said, adding that pesticides are available and some of the farmers have already taken them.

She said in the coming financial year, each chiwog in Shongphu gewog will be provided with three machines, which will be used to spray pesticides.

“After the arrival of the machines, it will be handed over to Tshogpa and farmers can use it whenever they require,” she added.

Radhi gewog’s agricultural official, Pema Wangchen said a few farmers have informed about the armyworms this year and some have already taken pesticide.

He said as it has been raining for a few days this year, the rain will hopefully help to subside the number of armyworms in the maize fields.

“Last year, armyworms damaged maize plantations of around 100 households in the gewog. The maize plantation has just started this year, so only around 20 households came for pesticide,” Pema Wangchen said. 

He added that farmers have their own machines now to spray pesticides and even other farmers, who do not have, are encouraged to borrow and use from those who have one.  

A farmer, Dechen, who is replanting maize after armyworms started to damage her maize field, said she is hoping for a positive result this year.

“Almost all my maize cultivation was damaged by armyworms last year. This year, I have handpicked the armyworms in half of my maize plantation. The worms feed on the leaves of the maize plants and they also eat the stem which weakens the plant,” Dechen said, adding that she will, however, not use pesticides as the latter would kill not just the worms, but other species too.

Another farmer, Phuntsho Tashi said while most farmers are replanting their maize, some are doing it for the third time this year because of the armyworms.

“Maize plants were healthy initially. However, the plants started dying within a few weeks as armyworms infested them. It is disheartening to see all the hard work go in vain,” said another farmer, Dorji.

He said he will try to plant some other things instead of maize next year as it has been for a straight two years that the maize plants have been damaged by armyworms. 

Sonam Tashi from Trashigang