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Grains & Cropping

19 November, 2020

Defending against a new pest, fall armyworm

SINCE its detection across northern Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia in February of this year, fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) has been quick to establish in these areas. Now, Plant Health Australia has announced a new toolkit to assist in defending crops against the insidious pest.


The Fall Armyworm Continuity Plan maps out zones likely to be at risk from fall armyworm.

Plant Health Australia National Manager for Preparedness and RD & E, Stuart Kearns, said the threat posed by fall armyworm had prompted a concerted effort to find out about its likely effects and how best to manage it.

“As fall armyworm is new to Australia, we are relying on information and experience from overseas until locally generated data is developed,” Mr Kearns said.

“In unmanaged situations it is known to decimate crops, specifically maize, sweetcorn and sorghum. In all, fall armyworm has been observed on 350 different plant species with 11 crop industries at risk.”

Mr Kearns said Plant Health Australia had sourced knowledge from around the world to develop a new reference guide that would help industry manage the invasive moth species.

“The information includes how to scout for and recognise the pest, its lifecycle and biology, estimated areas at risk, and management practices that will limit the damage it causes.”

The Fall Armyworm Continuity Plan for the Australian Grains Industry was a Grains Research Development Corporation initiative led by cesar, with project partners Plant Health Australia, the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International and the Queensland Department of Primary Industries.

The 75-page document provides a basis for designing area-wide management plans, crop specific management manuals and strategies against chemical resistance. A series of podcasts aimed at agronomists and growers will also prepare farm businesses for potential impacts.

Funded by Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative (PBRI) members, the podcasts are available for free from the PBRI website and will also be made available through Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and Fireside.

Mr Kearns said fall armyworm had been classed unfeasible to eradicate, and urged industries, agronomists and producers to find out more.

“Unfortunately, this moth is here to stay,” Mr Kearns said. “After it was detected in northern Australia earlier this year, it has spread rapidly southwards on prevailing winds.

“No one knows exactly how this new pest will behave in crops and pastures in Australia, so early detection is critical to controlling populations.”

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