- In major threat to food security, the Fall Armyworm pest has infested a number of crops in more than 50% of states in India.
- In August 2018, the Fall Armyworm was first reported to have infested maize crop in Chikkaballapur, Karnataka.
- Since then in a short span the pest has spread rapidly across states and crops.
In focus: Fall Armyworm: A major food security threat
- Fall Armyworm is an invasive agricultural pest that affects multiple crops (about 80 crops) ranging from maize to sugarcane, rice, vegetables etc.
- It is native to tropical and sub-tropical Americas especially Brazil.
- Since it was first discovered in Nigeria in West Africa, it has spread across 44 countries in the sub-Saharan region posing a food security threat.
- Now it is spreading across Asia and Southeast Asia, via Yemen, including India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Yunan province of China, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.
- It is named as Fall Armyworm because of the way it marches through crops en masse during late summer and autumn in the Americas.
- Fall Armyworm is an invasive moth species with scientific name Spodoptera frugiperda.
- It is a strong flyer, traversing distances of more than 100 km in a night.
- The adult female species is highly fertile with the ability to lay more than 1,000 eggs in its life cycle.
- It has a strong tendency to develop pesticide resistance.
- It primarily breeds in warmer climates of tropical and sub-tropical regions.
- It cannot survive in cold temperatures.
- It is polyphagous- able to feed on multiple crops.
- It feeds on leaves and fruit of a plant.
- It can also bore into the stalks of crops.
Rapid spread of Fall Armyworm
- It was 1st reported in maize fields in Karnataka in July 2018.
- Then it spread to major maize growing areas of East and West Godavari in Andhra Pradesh.
- In Tamil Nadu, it is reported have affected sugarcane crop.
- In Madhya Pradesh it has infested maize and soyabean crops Malwa, Mahakoshal and Baghelkhand.
- It has across Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, West Bengal, Gujarat and Mizoram.
Methods to control
- Biological control
- Coccinellid beetles are the natural predators of Fall Armyworm.
- A fungal species called Nomuraea rileyi also infects the Fall Armyworm.
- Breeding predators such as wasps, and developing a germ warfare.
- Use of insecticides like lambda-cyhalothrin, Carbofuran, Phorate, Thiamethoxam and Chlorantraniliprole
- Myanmar is using drones to spray insecticides
- Mechanically destroying the egg masses
- Burning of crops
- Digging trenches around the crops.
- Integrated Pest Management system
- Pheromone traps to catch the insects:
- Pheromones are volatile organic compounds insects secrete to communicate.
- Pheromone traps are designed to release artificially made chemicals to attract insects and trapping them.