adaptive-background

Fall armyworm

Preferred Scientific Name: Spodoptera frugiperda

Fall armyworm feeds in large numbers on leaves, stems and fruit of many plants. It causes severe damage to over one hundred types of plants, including economically important cultivated grasses such as maize, rice, sorghum, sugarcane, cotton and vegetable crops. 

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Why is it a problem?

Fall Armyworm feeds within the whorl (funnel) of seedlings and young plants. Larger larvae can cut the base of the plant. They also feed on the buds and growing points of tomato plants and pierce tomato fruits. Early in the season, severe feeding damage to young plants can kill the growing point; a symptom called 'dead heart' in maize. Maize plants may have the cobs attacked by larvae boring through the kernels. At high densities, large larvae may act as armyworms and disperse in swarms, but they often remain in the locality on wild grasses, if available.

Impacts

  • Severe crop losses
  • Negatively impacts food security
  • Reduces income
  • Negatively impacts farmers livelihoods

What is the solution?

Cultural control

On small-scale farms, handpick and destroy the egg masses and larvae. Larvae can be killed by applying a handful of sand (mixed with lime or ash), sawdust or soil in the whorl of the attacked plants.

Host-plant resistance 

Spodoptera spp. resistance breeding programmes have developed maize varieties with improved resistance such as increased leaf toughness by breeding for thicker epidermis. 

Biological control

A large number of parasitic Hymenoptera, acting as larval parasitoids, have been reared from S. frugiperda. Natural levels of larval parasitism are often very high (20-70%), mostly by braconid wasps. Some 10-15% of larvae are often killed by pathogens. Applying Ecopel or Bypel1 2x biopesticides at three week intervals can also help control S. frugiperda.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) 

The egg parasitoids Trichogramma atopovirilia and T. preiosum gave 30% and 60% control of S. frugiperda, respectively. 

Resources

Visit the dedicated Fall armyworm portal  on our Invasive Species Compendium

Fall Armyworm Evidence Note (Summary version) October 2018
Rwomushana, I., Bateman, M., Beale, T., Beseh, P., Cameron, K., Chiluba, M., Clottey, V., Davis, T., Day, R., Early, R., Godwin, J., Gonzalez-Moreno, P., Kansiime, M., Kenis, M., Makale, F., Mugambi, I., Murphy, S., Nunda. W., Phiri, N., Pratt, C., Tambo, J.

Fall Armyworm Evidence Note October 2018
Rwomushana, I., Bateman, M., Beale, T., Beseh, P., Cameron, K., Chiluba, M., Clottey, V., Davis, T., Day, R., Early, R., Godwin, J., Gonzalez-Moreno, P., Kansiime, M., Kenis, M., Makale, F., Mugambi, I., Murphy, S., Nunda. W., Phiri, N., Pratt, C., Tambo, J.

Fact file

Name Fall armyworm

Distribution

Africa, Asia, North / South / Central America

For more information on distribution, view the full datasheet available here

Habitat

Cultivated Land

Natural Enemies

Doru luteipes, egg parasitoid of Telenomus remus

Invasiveness

Spreads rapidly, highly competitive,

Climate

Tropical 

Further reading

Visit our online resource of research and full text articles and journals
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