Gardening the Bhutanese Way

Saturday, June 8, 2013

War between army worms and farmers

Many a villagers hold firm onto the superstitious belief that the outbreak of army worms (Spodoptera spp.) is a bad omen or a fore-teller of some natural catastrophes.  The crops that they have raised with intensive care fall an utter victim to the notorious invasion by the army worms.

With great difficulty, the army worms make a gradual ascend up to the awns of wheat and barley, many find an enchanting dwelling on the leaves of clover & some of the weed species. The gusty gales and the vigorous hands that shake them down to the earth pose a challenge to their climb up the slender stems to the top of the barley and wheat awns.

This warfare continuous until the farmer is tired of shaking them down. He may be successful in dropping a few of them on the earthy mud or less literally pick them up. But then his efforts becomes doomed as the other generations peep through the slimy mass of eggs, give a vying crawl with their fleshy stout legs, feed gregariously and voraciously on the crops that the farmers have raised with utmost care and lumps of hopes.

In fact, everything in existence has a reason or the worms as a living entity on the earth has its own right to inhabit the earth and to amplify the species of their own type. They possess the right to continue their generations as we the humans do. Neither do they bear any grudge towards our existence and the domestication of crops.

On the other hand, we the humans having been a civilized creature and a gluttonous feeder take the advantage of destroying their temporary rented homes. We maliciously succumb them to death before they could actually relish the taste of what is in store for them by the nature. Except for a few lucky ones, many of them give way to the pesticidal sprays that the farmers indiscriminately shower upon them.

We the humans are clever and witty enough to formulate chemicals that could disrupt the normal metabolism of these helpless creatures. And so they are. We the humans innovate new things (chemicals) and accordingly do they evolve. A few species of them develop resistance to the existing insecticidal sprays. On the other hand, the susceptible ones die and are eradicated completely. This indeed provides ample opportunity for the resistant ones to multiply rapidly and colonize the fields with the crops of their interest.

This phenomenon, called the Pest Resurgence is the reason behind our farmers complaining that the insecticidal sprays have little or no effect on the insects. I empathize and express my sympathy to the farmers who have incurred or are deemed to incur losses due to invasion by army worms and minor damages due to other insects like beetles, bugs, sucking pests,weevils, hairy caterpillars, etc.

Nevertheless, I am extremely glad that our Bhutanese farmers have not opted for the indiscriminate use of insecticides as is prevalent in India. This isn’t a trend as of now and it should not become one in the future for the application of insecticides is often itself the cause of pests outbreak. It rather augments the problem than providing a solution to it. This is due to pest resurgence.

On top of that, it may lead to problems like the pesticide residues which may cause many deleterious effects in our body. In addition, it will curtail the opportunities of our products being accepted in the international markets due to pesticide residues, which in fact should not exceed the maximum residue level (MRL).

The use of pesticides isn't a hard and fast rule for pest control. This is line with the fact that I have spotted many natural enemies or predators that would gradually do wonder in keeping the pest number at levels below those causing economic damage.

Among many, have I spotted  the lady bird beetles of varying shades and hue of red, dark red, brown and ashy grey with 5, 7 and 9 spots on their hardy lustrous elytra. Though their strength is comparatively lesser than that of pests, there is still a scope for us to mass multiply them in laboratories and release them on inundative basis.

Also, have my eyes caught a glimpse of spiders of various sizes and colours that are so absorbed in knitting their webs into immaculate yet complex structures. So lucky a chap is he for he can get his prey or food at ease in the trap that he has set.

However, my eyes might have missed some other natural enemies as I am certain that several others might have been hovering around. This is a mechanism that nature employs to maintain balance in the ecosystem. However, intervention by humans becomes inevitable in certain cases in order to meet the steeping demands of the ever increasing human population.

No comments:

Post a Comment