Agriculture:  The National Plant Protection Centre (NPPC) in Thimphu yesterday confirmed armyworm as the pest that had been infesting and destroying buckwheat fields for the last few days in Decheling gewog in Nganglam.

This is the second time the gewog people are battling with armyworm, but the infestation, agriculture officials said, is not as bad as in 2014 where two chiwogs were infested.

Following information from a villager who took a sample of worm to the gewog office on Thursday, gewog officials immediately informed the agriculture officer who then sent the pictures of a worm to the NPPC for confirmation.

However, the attack according to the gewog agriculture extension officer, Karma Jamtsho is not a major one and that with prompt precautions and measures, the spread of worms can be controlled.

Karma Jamtsho said they have already begun controlling measures like hand picking of worms and spraying of chemicals in the infested areas with the help of communities.

“The worms have swarmed about 3.5 acres of buckwheat belonging to six households in Bapta chiwog,” he said. “As of now it has infested only few plots of land, which is why we can control the worms from spreading to other parts of the village.”

The extension officer added that there was no report of such infest from other chiwogs or villages as of yesterday.

Village tshogpa Samten Tshewang was quick to point to climate change as the reason as the dungkhag had never experienced armyworm at this time of the year. “It is impossible for the worms to come in winter,” he said, adding that villagers were fortunate to have already harvested half of the sweet buckwheat and maize before the worms attacked.

“But armyworm has infested right before the bitter buckwheat harvest season and we’re worried because the winter maize cultivation will also start soon,” Samten Tshewang said. “The worms attack only at night, which is why we didn’t notice when it first infested and as days passed, the number increased.”

Used for self-consumption, buckwheat is used as a substitute for rice, to brew local alcohol and each household on an average, produces about 70 khaw (1 khaw is about two kg) of buckwheat.

As of yesterday, villagers along with the extension officer had sprayed pesticides in all the affected areas.

Yangchen C Rinzin,  Samdrupjongkhar