There has been a large amount of controversy above how Covid-19 emerged. For the previous just one and fifty percent year, Covid-19 – an invasive, really infectious and virulent condition has devastated general public overall health and plagued the healthcare program in India and across the globe. At the exact time, even though remaining unnoticed at city coverage stage, a troika of alien enemies have infiltrated agriculture and plagued farmers and their crops in the last few several years. Inspite of authorities sounding alarms for several years, the biosecurity, phytosanitary import regulation and quarantine actions unsuccessful to include the inflow of invasive pests and health conditions.

The initial and foremost enemy of agriculture is the invasive slide armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda J.E. Smith) that invaded the hinterlands in May possibly 2018. It is a devastating pest of maize and now can be found harming sugarcane, sorghum and millets. The next unfamiliar enemy is a fungal plant pathogen (Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense) novel strain “Tropical Race-4” (TR-4) infecting the banana crop in new several years. Last, but not the the very least is a ravenous migratory pest desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria), a gregarious pest that has develop into a nuisance to farmers in last two several years. In a lot of regions, these crop enemies have taken a toll as farmers are grappling with management procedures and productive management actions.

Compromising meals safety

The new enemies of agriculture are explained as the equivalent of Covid-19 and have the potential to unfold like an epidemic in agriculture and compromise India’s meals safety. It is time that crop overall health enemies get the variety of coverage focus provided for the management of Covid-19, which include the rapidly-tracking crisis approval of novel biotherapeutics and vaccines, surveillance of prevalence, determination of micro-containment zones and consciousness about acceptable behaviour. Strengthening phytosanitary and quarantine actions, shedding anti-science bias toward genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and genome editing, rapidly-tracking approval of biotech qualities and crop defense molecules and deployment of drones are some of important regions of interventions for the avoidance and mitigation of chance by invasive pests and health conditions in agriculture. The Indian authorities will have to appear beyond the created pseudo-controversy and misinformation about science of agriculture enable coverage natural environment, streamline regulatory processes and monitor inter-ministerial cooperation in multiple regulatory bodies to reach the aim of crop overall health and meals safety

A new swift roving study by SABC of fodder maize crop in some sections of Aurangabad division in early summer indicated a stressing craze of FAW infestation in fodder maize fields that can have a spill above effects of commercial maize in the forthcoming kharif year. Moreover, there have been studies of FAW infestation of maize crop planted in spring and summer in North, North-East and Southern India. There is a have to have to continue to keep close enjoy on pest dynamics and maize growers will have to be alerted for imminent risk, if any. The swift migration of FAW given that May possibly 2018 demonstrates the potential of the pest to rapidly reproduce, aggressive feeding as nicely as rapidly migration to maize making regions. The agricultural R&D and extension program will have to not continue being complacent, and farmers have to have to be cautious of the ravenous slide armyworm.

Novel fungal strain

In addition, a novel fungal strain TR-4 has been lately noted in 2017 and emerged as a massive risk to banana fruit plantation in Bihar, UP, MP and Maharashtra. The TR-4 race of panama wilt of banana has leapfrogged across the globe, commencing from Taiwan, then to South Asia, Africa and has now entered India. The strain TR-4 impacts the widely cultivated exportable banana wide variety Grand Naine (G-nine) and can cause enormous decline to farmers and unfold quickly in soil and drinking water. Till now, the banana crop planted above 9 lakh hectares mainly stays pest-free of charge apart from some workable condition this sort of as Sigatoka and Bunchy major virus. The big-scale banana plantation in Bihar, UP, MP, Maharashtra and Gujarat are vulnerable to condition TR-4 and can sufferunless it is correctly controlled. None of the cultivated versions are resistant. For that reason, there is a have to have forsurveillance to have an understanding of the an infection and signs of this condition for well timed management actions. Currently the only treatment is to detect the wilted crops due to TR-4 and demolish them to stay clear of contamination. Sanitation of the banana gardens is the greatest preventive measure.

Definitely, monitoring and surveillance are the hallmarks for early reaction, management actions and productive management of the invasive enemies. Desert locust is the vintage example of how the appropriate monitoring permits FAO to give forecasts, early warning and alerts on the timing, breeding, scale and spot of invasions. India experienced locust outbreak in 2020 and we will have to now actively coordinate with FAO Locust Plan to evaluate chance of migration of locust swarms from Africa towards South-West Asia in the long run. Establishing bilateral collaboration with locust hosts as nicely as influenced nations is important to keep track of, trace and mitigate harm.

Biotech innovation

One more massive dilemma is how innovation in biotechnology would be made readily available in our place to much better management the slide armyworm as nicely as TR-4 fungal condition. The US and Latin American nations have been equipped to management slide armyworm for the previous 20 several years utilizing insect resistant Bt maize. Australian scientists have lately developed genetically-modified bananas utilizing the genome edited CRISPR system for Fusarium mutant TR-4. These systems will before long be adopted by banana rising nations to conquer the unbearable effects of Fusarium condition. In India, the coverage uncertainty on genetically modified crops has currently delayed introduction of safe and sound and confirmed biotechnologies in maize, soybean and canola.

Novel vaccines and biotherapeutics developed by genetic modification procedures have been expeditiously authorised for mass inoculation, nonetheless, the genetic modification in agriculture is delayed and denied to tens of millions of farmers apart from for Bt cotton, successfully commercialised in 2002 and planted above 95 per cent of cotton space in 2020. Inspite of a biological war, a sturdy coverage natural environment and a massive force 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 Research Scientist at SABC and Mayee, President of board of administrators of the Centre)