In focus: Fall Armyworm: A major food security threat

In focus: Fall Armyworm: A major food security threat

Introduction

  • 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.

 

Characteristics

  • 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.

 

Feeding behavior

  • 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.

 

Lifecycle

 

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.
  • Insecticides
    • 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.

 

Section : Environment & Ecology

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