Fall Armyworm in South Africa
Fall Armyworm (FAW, Spodoptera frugiperda) has recently invaded South Africa and has already been found on a number of different crops, including maize, sweetcorn, potatoes, sorghum, and vegetables 6,7. FAW is a devastating, highly aggressive pest and poses a serious threat to South African crops as well as to international exports through quarantine restrictions.
The Fall Armyworm is a Lepidopteran pest of the family Noctuidae. The larvae, so named for their aggressive feeding patterns, feed in large numbers (like an army) on more than 80 plant species1. Moths fly well and can cover large distances on prevailing winds. Females can lay more than 1000 eggs and the lifecycle is short (24-40 days.), allowing for several generations in a season 1.
FAW originates from South and Central America and are also present in the southern states of the US. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that Brazil spends US$600 million annually on FAW control 2, 3. FAW was first detected on the African continent in Nigeria in early 2016. The pest was first reported in South Africa in January 2017.
FAW is difficult to manage for a number of reasons. The nature of it’s feeding, host range and short generation time makes FAW a very successful pest. FAW is often inaccessible to contact insecticides when the larvae are hidden inside whorls and reproductive parts of the host plant 5. In addition, FAW is known to build up resistance to pesticides. According to Croplife, the FAW invading SA seems to be significantly resistant to pyrethroids10. Furthermore, resistance to transgenic Bt maize varieties has been reported8. Chemical resistance will therefore have to be carefully managed. Biological control will play an important role in managing FAW, either as a stand-alone measure or as part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programme.
Emergency registration of Eco-Bb for FAW
In response to a request from the South Africa Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), PHP has recently obtained an emergency registration for Eco-Bb to be used for the management of FAW on maize, sweetcorn, soybean, tomatoes, Cruciferae (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts), barley and sorghum. Scientific evidence suggests that Beauveria bassiana strains are able to effectively suppress FAW populations 11, 12. Pest levels will be monitored and field trials will be conducted with Eco-Bb as soon as possible.
For South African stockist information please contact our distribution partner, Madumbi Sustainable Agriculture.
- Goergen, Georg, et al. “First Report of Outbreaks of the Fall Armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda (JE Smith)(Lepidoptera, Noctuidae), a New Alien Invasive Pest in West and Central Africa.” PLoS One 11.10 (2016): e0165632.
- ARC Plant Protection Unit Fact Sheet: The new invasive Fall Armyworm (FAW) in South Africa.
- DAFF Fall Army worm updates: http://www.daff.gov.za/daffweb3/News-Room/Media-release/Fallarmy
- Storer, Nicholas P., et al. “Discovery and characterization of field resistance to Bt maize: Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) in Puerto Rico.” Journal of economic entomology4 (2010): 1031-1038.
- Wraight, S. P., et al. “Comparative virulence of Beauveria bassiana isolates against lepidopteran pests of vegetable crops.” Journal of invertebrate pathology3 (2010): 186-199.
- Ramirez-Rodriguez, Denisse, and Sergio R. Sánchez-Peña. “Endophytic Beauveria bassiana 1 in Zea mays: Pathogenicity against Larvae of Fall Armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda 2.” Southwestern Entomologist3 (2016): 875-878.