29 April 2020
The fall armyworm (FAW; Spodoptera frugiperda) is the larval stage of the lepidopteran pest fall armyworm moth native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. While a wide range of plant species are known hosts to the FAW, it has a strong preference for maize and can cause significant damage to other crops including rice, sorghum, wheat, cotton, sugarcane, winter cereals and fodder crops.
The FAW was first detected in the Torres Strait Islands in January 2020 and on the Australian mainland in February 2020. It has now been detected in the NT, QLD and WA. It is expected the pest will spread quickly.
Growers should remain vigilant and report any suspected sightings to the relevant state or territory biosecurity authority. An Insect ID guide to help distinguish FAW from Northern Australian endemic armyworm species is available online.
The plant science industry is focussed on providing growers with as many solutions as possible to manage pest incursions.
While there are some products registered for the control of other armyworms or caterpillars which can be used for the control of FAW, there are currently no products registered specifically to control FAW in Australia, due to its recent arrival. A number of emergency use permits have been approved by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority in order to provide protection options for a range of crops. It is essential that all pesticide applicators adhere to the instructions for use on the approved permits, to ensure products are used effectively and safely.
Farmers should be on the lookout for this pest in order to control it effectively as part of their integrated pest management program and resistance management strategy.
If you suspect you have FAW on your property, please notify your primary industries/agriculture department or the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.