There has been a great deal of controversy about how Covid-19 emerged. For the earlier 1 and fifty percent yr, Covid-19 – an invasive, very infectious and virulent ailment has devastated general public overall health and plagued the healthcare procedure in India and throughout the world. At the exact time, though remaining unnoticed at urban plan level, a troika of alien enemies have infiltrated agriculture and plagued farmers and their crops in the final few several years. In spite of professionals sounding alarms for several years, the biosecurity, phytosanitary import regulation and quarantine actions failed to incorporate the inflow of invasive pests and disorders.

The initial and foremost enemy of agriculture is the invasive drop armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda J.E. Smith) that invaded the hinterlands in Might 2018. It is a devastating pest of maize and now can be viewed harmful sugarcane, sorghum and millets. The 2nd unidentified enemy is a fungal plant pathogen (Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense) novel strain “Tropical Race-4” (TR-four) infecting the banana crop in modern several years. Previous, but not the the very least is a ravenous migratory pest desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria), a gregarious pest that has turn out to be a nuisance to farmers in final two several years. In quite a few parts, these crop enemies have taken a toll as farmers are grappling with management tactics and productive handle actions.

Compromising food stuff safety

The new enemies of agriculture are described as the equivalent of Covid-19 and have the potential to spread like an epidemic in agriculture and compromise India’s food stuff safety. It is time that crop overall health enemies get the form of plan attention given for the management of Covid-19, which includes the speedy-tracking emergency approval of novel biotherapeutics and vaccines, surveillance of prevalence, dedication of micro-containment zones and recognition about suitable behaviour. Strengthening phytosanitary and quarantine actions, shedding anti-science bias toward genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and genome enhancing, speedy-tracking approval of biotech characteristics and crop defense molecules and deployment of drones are some of vital parts of interventions for the avoidance and mitigation of hazard by invasive pests and disorders in agriculture. The Indian authorities will have to glance outside of the made pseudo-controversy and misinformation about science of agriculture empower plan environment, streamline regulatory procedures and keep track of inter-ministerial cooperation in numerous regulatory bodies to achieve the intention of crop overall health and food stuff safety

A modern quick roving study by SABC of fodder maize crop in some components of Aurangabad division in early summer indicated a worrying development of FAW infestation in fodder maize fields that can have a spill about impression of commercial maize in the forthcoming kharif period. Additionally, there ended up reports of FAW infestation of maize crop planted in spring and summer in North, North-East and Southern India. There is a need to have to continue to keep close watch on pest dynamics and maize growers will have to be alerted for imminent menace, if any. The quick migration of FAW since Might 2018 demonstrates the ability of the pest to speedily reproduce, aggressive feeding as properly as speedy migration to maize creating regions. The agricultural R&D and extension procedure will have to not continue being complacent, and farmers need to have to be cautious of the ravenous drop armyworm.

Novel fungal strain

In addition, a novel fungal strain TR-four has been not long ago claimed in 2017 and emerged as a large menace to banana fruit plantation in Bihar, UP, MP and Maharashtra. The TR-four race of panama wilt of banana has leapfrogged throughout the world, starting from Taiwan, then to South Asia, Africa and has now entered India. The strain TR-four has an effect on the extensively cultivated exportable banana selection Grand Naine (G-nine) and can trigger enormous loss to farmers and spread promptly in soil and h2o. Until eventually now, the banana crop planted about 9 lakh hectares largely stays pest-totally free apart from some workable ailment this sort of as Sigatoka and Bunchy best virus. The significant-scale banana plantation in Bihar, UP, MP, Maharashtra and Gujarat are susceptible to ailment TR-four and can sufferunless it is appropriately managed. None of the cultivated versions are resistant. Therefore, there is a need to have forsurveillance to understand the infection and signs of this ailment for timely handle actions. At this time the only cure is to identify the wilted vegetation owing to TR-four and wipe out them to steer clear of contamination. Sanitation of the banana gardens is the very best preventive evaluate.

Certainly, checking and surveillance are the hallmarks for early reaction, handle actions and productive management of the invasive enemies. Desert locust is the typical case in point of how the proper checking lets FAO to give forecasts, early warning and alerts on the timing, breeding, scale and spot of invasions. India endured locust outbreak in 2020 and we will have to now actively coordinate with FAO Locust Plan to evaluate likelihood of migration of locust swarms from Africa towards South-West Asia in the long run. Acquiring bilateral collaboration with locust hosts as properly as afflicted nations around the world is vital to track, trace and mitigate injury.

Biotech innovation

An additional large dilemma is how innovation in biotechnology would be made out there in our nation to better handle the drop armyworm as properly as TR-four fungal ailment. The US and Latin American nations around the world have been equipped to handle drop armyworm for the earlier twenty several years using insect resistant Bt maize. Australian researchers have not long ago developed genetically-modified bananas using the genome edited CRISPR system for Fusarium mutant TR-four. These technologies will before long be adopted by banana rising nations around the world to prevail over the unbearable impression of Fusarium ailment. In India, the plan uncertainty on genetically modified crops has now delayed introduction of secure and established biotechnologies in maize, soybean and canola.

Novel vaccines and biotherapeutics developed by genetic modification methods have been expeditiously permitted for mass inoculation, even so, the genetic modification in agriculture is delayed and denied to tens of millions of farmers apart from for Bt cotton, properly commercialised in 2002 and planted about 95 for each cent of cotton region in 2020. In spite of a organic war, a strong plan environment and a large drive to R&D and innovation can eradicate the troika of alien enemies, enhance farm realisation and sustainable agriculture.

(Chaudhary is the founder-director of South Asia Biotechnology Centre (SABC), Jodhpur Agale is Analysis Scientist at SABC and Mayee, President of board of administrators of the Centre)