Fall armyworm update

Fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) has been detected in several new locations in southern and southwestern Queensland over the past week, at the Lockyer Valley, St George and Chinchilla. This follows the recent detection of fall armyworm in northern New South Wales at Moree and Boggabilla near the Queensland border.

This expansion of range from northern and central Queensland is not unexpected as fall armyworm is highly mobile, with long-distance migrations facilitated by favourable meteorological conditions.

Fall armyworm was initially detected on the Torres Strait islands of Saibai and Erub in January 2020. Since then it has also been reported from numerous sites in northern and central Queensland including Bamaga, Croydon, South Johnstone, Tolga, Lakeland, the Burdekin, Bowen, Bundaberg, Emerald, Richmond, Clermont, Biloela, Mackay and Longreach.

Fall armyworm has also been detected in the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), Queensland is working with industry to find ways to address the serious threat posed by the fall armyworm to Queensland’s agriculture industry. In conjunction with industry, DAF now manages a statewide network of over 50 pheromone traps, monitoring local fall armyworm activity–an early warning system for growers and agronomists. This trap data is updated weekly and is available on the Beatsheet website.

Producers who think that they may have come across fall armyworm are strongly encouraged to photograph and report suspect sightings to DAF on 13 25 23 or to their local biosecurity officer or extension officer.

For more information, including the potential impacts of this pest and management advice for key crops, visit business.qld.gov.au/fallarmyworm.

Fall armyworm makes it to NSW

Destructive agricultural pest fall armyworm is continuing its march south and has been detected for the first time in northern NSW.

A single fall armyworm moth was trapped near a sorghum crop between Moree and Boggabilla during routine surveillance by NSW Department of Primary Industries and Local Land Services.

NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall urged farmers in the district to remain vigilant.

“This is the first known detection of the pest in NSW and its early detection will help minimise the impacts of fall armyworm,” Mr Marshall said.

“Farmers should monitor crops, particularly sorghum and maize, regularly for signs of fall armyworm damage, egg masses and larvae.

“Control weeds and volunteer plants in fallow paddocks, along fence lines and around buildings to reduce the number of pest hosts.”

Fall armyworm was first detected in Australia on two Torres Strait islands in January, before reaching the mainland at Bamaga in February.

Native to Central America, it can fly up to 500 kilometres and has spread quickly around the world.

The exotic pest has the potential to wipe out agricultural crops, and at the larval stage feeds on more than 350 plant species including cultivated grasses such as maize, rice, sorghum, sugarcane and wheat, as well as fruit and vegetable and cotton crops.

Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative Podcast: Fall Armyworm

The first series of PBRI Podcasts is on fall armyworm. It explores the experiences and observations of experts from around the globe and here in Australia as we prepare to take on this invasive pest.

Throughout the series, host Chris Brown delves into the biology and behaviour of fall armyworm and explores how we can best prepare ourselves to minimise its impact.

Episode 1: Fall armyworm biology and ecology in subtropical and temperate US

To understand how fall armyworm behaves in different parts of the US, and what this may mean for Australia, we spoke with two American researchers on their work over the past 30 years. Greg Nuessly from the University of Florida and Dominic Reisig from North Carolina State University discuss their work under subtropical conditions in southern Florida where it is a primary pest every year in the same crops, and in cool temperate conditions in North Carolina where it is more sporadic.

Episode 2: Applied fall armyworm management in row crops and pastures in Texas

Exploring the practical control strategies used in row crops and pastures across Texas, Extension specialist and IPM coordinator, David Kerns, from Texas A&M University talks about the different strains of FAW, the crops they effect and the tactics for control.

This podcast discusses the overseas use of chlorantraniliprole on sorghum for fall armyworm. This use is not approved in Australia – read note below under important information / pesticide disclaimer.

Please note that an emergency use permit application submitted for the use of chlorantraniliprole in sorghum to control fall armyworm was not approved by the APVMA. Further, the APVMA considered that the proposed use presented an undue risk to trade, based on information received in response to a Trade Advice Notice (TAN) and the trade assessment of the proposed use.

Episode 3: Active response to fall armyworm in South Africa

Working across governments, industry, languages and neighbouring countries was critical in minimise the impact of the fall armyworm outbreak in South Africa. Jan-Hendrik Venter, from South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, talks about the approach taken in response to their fall armyworm incursion in 2017.

Episode 4: FAO’s global action for fall armyworm control

On this podcast we speak to FAO’s Elisabetta Tagliati about the risks posed by fall armyworm to global food and feed security and FAO’s efforts to develop international capacity and capabilitiy to manage the pest across 65 countries under a Global Action Plan.

Episode 5 : Field observations of fall armyworm in northern Australia

Since the recent arrival of fall armyworm in Australia, scientists, growers and agronomists across the north have been on a steep learning curve. Home-grown entomologists Melina Miles and Paul Grundy from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries speak about their observations and thoughts on how the pest is behaving in Australia and the likely implications for management.

Episode 6: Footprints in the paddock – approaches to scouting, developing thresholds and tips to familiarise yourself with fall armyworm

We now have some valuable first-hand experience in dealing with fall armyworm in commercial crops in north Queensland. Burdekin agronomist Brent Wilson from Nutien Ag Solutions at Home Hill and GRDC Seed of Light recipient Paul McIntosh from Pulse Australia and the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative share their insights into the need to manage resistance, developing thresholds, identifying fall armyworm, and where to look for them.

Sclerotial Sett Rot Disease

SRA has published a new information sheet on our website on a recently identified disease of sugarcane – sclerotial sett rot (SSR).

SSR was first identified in 2016 at the SRA Woodford Pathology Farm on sugarcane setts sent for disease resistance screening trials. Up until now, it has not been reported anywhere else in the world. 

SSR affects sett germination and kills young plants, but it is unclear whether SSR is present in commercial sugarcane farming systems in Australia.

Information is currently being sought on whether SSR has been observed in commercial sugarcane crops in the Australian sugar industry.

Project to combat fall armyworm in Australia and South East Asia

The project will provide an understanding of the pest’s genetic make-up and insecticide sensitivities to see which practices are the most effective for managing FAW. This will help develop effective pest management plans.

CSIRO researcher and project leader Dr Wee Tek Tay said FAW was capable of damaging various crops, including maize, sorghum, cotton, ginger and sugarcane.

“This particular species of armyworm has developed resistance to commonly used insecticides in other parts of the world, making management more difficult,” Dr Tay said.

 “It has spread rapidly since the first reported detection in Africa in 2016, across Asia and Africa and to Australia in early 2020, potentially carrying new insecticide resistance or feeding traits.

“The resistance status of the current incursion, potential for resistance to develop over time and the ongoing migration of FAW into Australia and the region may present significant challenges to agricultural industries.

“The more we know about this armyworm, its genetics and its response to insecticides, the better we can plan for effective management and eradication strategies.”

The project is co-funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Grains Research and Development Corporation, Cotton Research and Development Corporation, FMC Australasia and Corteva Agriscience.

It involves partner organisations in Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Philippines, Malaysia and Uganda.

Historically, the pest has been classified as either rice-preferred or corn-preferred fall armyworm.

However, recent genomic studies confirmed the presence of hybrids in both native and invasive ranges, leading to gaps in understanding of host crop preferences, especially in invasive populations.

ACIAR’s Associated Research Program Manager for Farming Systems Analysis, Dr Sarina Macfadyen, said it was hoped the research would help develop individual country responses and facilitate co-ordinated actions.

“The team will focus on developing new knowledge in two areas; firstly, conducting a genetic characterisation of the similarities and differences in the populations found in Australia and the countries in South East Asia,” Dr Macfadyen said.

“The second area of research involves testing the insecticide sensitivities of these populations that may already show some level of resistance to commonly used products.

“The team will look for genetic markers that, if present, may suggest some populations already carry mutations that make them able to withstand specific insecticides, and they will conduct bioassays on live caterpillars exposed to different insecticide modes of action.

“This knowledge will feed into the development of resistance management plans by individual countries and inform insecticide recommendations to farmers.”

Transboundary plant pests and diseases may easily spread to several countries and reach epidemic proportions. Outbreaks may cause significant losses to crops and pastures, threatening the livelihoods of farmers and  the food and nutrition security of many people.

The spread of transboundary pests, such as FAW, has increased dramatically in recent years. Globalisation, trade and climate change, as well as reduced resilience in production systems due to decades of agricultural intensification, may all have played a part.

“This co-investment brings together partners in government, RDCs, the private sector and the research community to address an immediate priority – the characterisation of FAW in Australia and South East Asia,” said Dr Jeevan Khurana, GRDC’s Manager Biosecurity who is co-ordinating the partnership.

“The information generated will be an important component in the development of sustainable management strategies.”

The research is due to run until the middle of 2021 with a final report of the findings to be published by CSIRO and ACIAR.