SAN AGUSTIN, Pili, Camarines Sur—In view of the continuous and rapid spread of Fall Armyworm (FAW) (Spodoptera frugiperda) in neighboring countries and Philippines’ climatic condition conducive to the growth of the pest, Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) OIC-Director George Y. Culaste issued a memorandum to advise all agricultural offices to engage in pest surveillance and monitoring through detection survey.

FAW is a native to the Americas and studies showed that it is a major pest to cereals and forage grasses. It eats 186 plant species from 42 families like maize, rice, sugarcane, sorghum, beet, tomato, potato, cotton, millet and pasture grasses.

Thus, it poses a risk to subsistence and cash crops in large parts of the world.

In 2016, FAW is reported to be in Africa, India and several Asia Pacific countries, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand and China. It poses a threat outside its range particularly in temperate regions because it can travel several hundred kilometers in a single flight by flying to and maintaining an elevation of several hundred meters which transports them in a directional manner.

In Thailand alone, it was recorded that FAW spread-out in just four months.

Studies also showed that it is difficult to control because it has natural levels of tolerance to some insecticidal proteins and demonstrated ability to develop resistance to insecticides and traits.

Two strains are morphologically similar but with different host ranges, mating behavior and pheromone composition. It is capable of cross-hybridization. Both strains occur in Africa on maize. The Maize strain prefers maize, cotton, sorghum, and other similar crops. The Rice strain prefers rice and pasture grasses such as Bermuda grass and Johnson grass.

Other important crops that can be affected by FAW include cotton, soybean, wheat, barley, alfalfa, peanut, oat, clover, tobacco, tomato, potato, cabbage, lettuce, beet, onion, apple, grape, peach, papaya, orange and ornamental crops.

According to the BPI for an effective FAW management, farmers should have multiple approaches like preventative and avoidance approach; monitoring and detection of an infestation for prompt action using threshold levels; and actions to suppress and control the pest once it is detected in a field.

Regulatory control from multiple government and regulatory agencies should be conducted through inspection, quarantine, and destruction of infested material.

Cultural methods include early planting to avoid heavier pest densities in late season; eliminate weed hosts that sustain larval populations before their migration to a new maize crop; avoid adjacent sequential planting to prevent migrations of larvae from a maturing crop to new fields; proper fertilization, irrigation, and cultivation. In monitoring adult populations, farmers should track the flight migration of adult FAW to prepare ahead of a potential infestation. To trap adult FAW, farmers can use synthetic pheromones (natural molecules produced by insects) to trap adult male moths. They can use a green lid/yellow funnel/white bucket unitrap to trap the adult FAW. (jaysonmgonzales)