Farmers lament that Agri Dept unconcerned over the impact

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Farmers in Ratmalgahaela, Dambulla are concerned over several unidentified species of caterpillars invading their paddy lands and fear that crops are in danger of extinction.

They say these caterpillars frequently invade the fields at night and in the wee hours of the morning and the army of caterpillars consume the leaves and are quick to damage them.

Caterpillars are said to breed in a variety of colours and shapes, including green, yellow, brown, and black as camouflage during the day before becoming active at night to feed on the leaves. Farmers spray pesticides imported from India to control the voracious species.

Farmers said they were battling it out to save their crops. Meanwhile, pesticide to be used on the invasive caterpillar is sold at Rs 580 in Sri Lanka while it costs a mere Rs 80 in the Indian market.

Farmers claim that there was no information as to how the pest entered the country and the harm done to plants and insects have still not been assessed.

Farmers also point out that, as a result of the on-going caterpillar invasion, rabbits who frequent these paddy lands are out of sight thus causing worm droppings on the fields which farmers say cause untold damage to crops. These farmers claim that they have never seen such damage to their paddy fields in the recent past.

They lament that neither the Agrarian Services Department nor the Department of Agriculture has given this matter any attention. Farmers, however, warn that if this species of caterpillar is not destroyed immediately it could have a significant impact on food in the future.

BY K. K. Ariyadasa – Dambulla