ISLAMABAD: The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) has cautioned Pakistan to take steps to protect its crops from the ‘fall armyworm’ (FAW), a devastating pest that has been identified for the first time on the Indian subcontinent.
Director-General, CIMMYT, Dr Martin Kropff, now visiting Pakistan, held a meeting with Minister for National Food Security and Research Sahibzada Mehboob Sultan on Thursday and offered cooperation of the Mexico-based organisation in tackling the prevalent threat of FAW in Pakistan.
“We want that our future cooperation in this regard must continue, and Pakistan may not only ensure a prompt surveillance system but also bring more disease-resistant varieties of wheat and maize,” Dr Martin said.
Native to the Americas, the pest is known to eat over 80 plant species, with a particular preference for maize, a main staple crop around the world.
The fall armyworm was first officially reported in Nigeria in West Africa in 2016, and rapidly spread across 44 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Sightings of damage to maize crops in India due to ‘fall armyworm’ mark the first report of the pest in Asia.
The pest has the potential to spread quickly not only within India, but also to other neighbouring countries in Asia, owing to suitable climatic conditions, according to a pest alert published by the National Bureau of Agricultural Research, part of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.
Dr Martin said that CIMMYT is amazed at the remarkable success of wheat programme in Pakistan. Director CIMMYT’s Global Wheat Programme, Hans Braun emphasised the need to be cognisant of securing the targeted yield in wheat as the global climate change might pose a great challenge and one Celsius drop in temperature during the night time may decrease seven per cent of wheat yield, hence with combination of intelligent interventions and sensible subsidies, enormous results in food security could be achieved.
Mr Mehboob Sultan appreciated the contributions of CIMMYT in Pakistan since the green revolution and said that the present government was ambitious for the revival of agriculture and breakthrough in agro-research.
Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2019