New detection of invasive moth sparks calls for vigilance in monitoring in the north

Northern region growers warned to keep watch for fall armyworm recently found in Australia

Pests
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Growers urged to monitor crops for signs of fall armyworm (FAW) - newly detected in Qld.

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Fall armyworm has been found in Australia. Its larvae is known to feed on more than 350 plant species and the pest has caused significant economic losses overseas. PHOTO CIMMYT

Fall armyworm has been found in Australia. Its larvae is known to feed on more than 350 plant species and the pest has caused significant economic losses overseas. PHOTO CIMMYT

Growers have been warned to be alert for the invasive moth pest fall armyworm (FAW - Spodoptera frugiperda), which has been detected in Australia.

GRDC Managing Director Dr Steve Jefferies says GRDC is encouraging all grain growers - especially those throughout central and coastal Queensland - to keep an eye on their crops for signs of FAW incursions.

"Fall armyworm is a highly destructive pest - the larvae is known to feed on more than 350 plant species and they've caused significant economic losses overseas," Dr Jefferies says.

"Adults are highly mobile and quite capable of travelling large distances quickly. Their migration rate is remarkably fast, estimated at almost 500 kilometres per generation. They can also spread through people movement. It is believed that their arrival in Africa was via a passenger flight."

Adults are highly mobile and quite capable of travelling large distances quickly. - GRDC Managing Director Dr Steve Jefferies

Dr Jefferies says GRDC has been monitoring the international spread of the pest's incursions and anticipated the potential for an incursion of FAW Australia.

"GRDC has invested in research aimed at characterising FAW insecticide resistance and determining the most appropriate prevention and preparedness measures," he says.

Pest management tactics

The main control measure available to Australian growers for FAW is application of insecticides.

Dr Jefferies says experience in overseas countries is that FAW has developed resistance to insecticides.

"So it's essential that this research is in place to rapidly inform grain growers about what chemicals are most effective to mitigate the impact of FAW in Australia," he says.

"This new FAW incursion has the potential to severely damage grain crops and hit grower profitability.

"It's a complex issue and will need a multi-agency response."

Partnering for control

Dr Jefferies says GRDC is committed to collaborating with other organisations to ensure there is an effective and coordinated response to the FAW incursion. These include:

  • plant-based Research and Development Corporations (RDCs);
  • Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment;
  • Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative (PBRI);
  • Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries; and
  • Plant Health Australia (PHA).

GRDC and other plant based RDCs are working together to coordinate a cross industry response and -through the Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative (PBRI) - are coordinating permit submissions to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). The aim is to streamline APVMA insecticide permit assessments and decrease turn-around timelines.

GRDC has been proactive in regard to preparedness for FAW, investing with PHA to secure minor use chemical permits.

"We secured the first permit as early as April 2018, with a second permit issued earlier this month - which shows how we've tried to be on the front foot and as prepared as possible for this potential incursion," Dr Jefferies says.

The Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests (CCEPP) is Australia's key technical body for coordinating national responses to emergency plant pest (EPP) incursions, and assessing the technical feasibility for their eradication.

We secured the first permit as early as April 2018, with a second permit issued earlier this month - which shows how we've tried to be on the front foot and as prepared as possible for this potential incursion. - GRDC Managing Director Dr Steve Jefferies

Containing the spread

On Monday 24 February 2020, the CCEPP agreed that it was not technically feasible to eradicate FAW from Australia.

This was due to the pest's reproductive capacity, ability to fly long distances and wide host range - combined with the remoteness and spread of the known infestations in Australia.

"The best shot we've now got to minimise the spread and contain the impact of FAW is for early detection and effective control measures," Dr Jefferies says.

"It's important that growers monitor crops and use treatments according to the permit.

"It's everyone's responsibility to watch out for this destructive pest and protect Australia's agricultural industries and environment."

Reporting

To report a suspected sighting of FAW, growers are requested to call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline 1800 084 881. Information about identification of this pest can be found here.

See also:

More Information: Kylie Dunstan, GRDC Head of Corporate Affairs, 0428 864 934, kylie.dunstan@grdc.com.au

NOTE: GRDC is one of the world's leading grains research organisations, responsible for planning, investing in and overseeing RD&E to deliver improvements in production, sustainability and profitability across the Australian grains industry. GRDC's purpose is to invest in RD&E to create enduring profitability for Australian grain growers.

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