DA-9 warns farmers vs Fall Armyworms

By Emmanuel D. Taghoy

DIPOLOG CITY, Zamboanga del Norte, August 19, (PIA) - - - The Department of Agriculture (DA9) through its Regional Crop Protection Center (RCPC) has conducted series of awareness seminar on Fall Armyworm (FAW) in the Zamboanga Peninsula region recently.

The Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), FAW is a dangerous transboundary pest native to the Americans and feeds on maize (corn), sorghum, rice, millet, sugarcane, cotton, potatoes, and other feed crops.

FAW has been spreading rapidly to all sub-regions of Africa since 2016, causing significant damage to crops. It hasalso spread across Asia since it was detected in southern India in 2018. Fields in Bangladesh, China, Myanmar, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand have also fallen victim of FAW. Early this year its presence has also been confirmed in Indonesia, affecting its corn crops.

According to Priscilla Jover, DA9 RCPC Chief, this pestthrives in tropical and sub-tropical climates with a life cycle of 24 days to 40 days.

“Zamboanga is very close to these affected countries and we need to be prepared in case these fall armyworms attack our farms. We hope our local technicians will help us raise awareness and spread information on the FAW.”

Jover said the awareness seminar is part of the early detection strategies of DA-RCPC to be able to prevent and monitor entry of the fall armyworm in the region, or in the country. She said the RCPC is also working continuously in conducting the trials on natural bio-control agents for different plant and crop pests.

“As of the moment, we do not have any reports of any presence or attack of the FAW. We call on our farmers and agriculture extension workers to immediately inform us of any suspected FAW in their respective areas.” she added. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that they are working with relevant authorities to train farmers on integrated management practices to contain FAW.

Some best practices start with identifying natural enemies of the Fall Armyworm, enhancing natural biological controls and mechanical controls; such as crushing egg masses and employing the use of biopesticidesto slow the spread and limit FAW damage. Chemical use needs to be very carefully considered since fall armyworm caterpillars hide deep in the crop foliage, and also such pesticides can harm natural enemies and farmers’ health.

“If effective measures are put in place, the negative effects of Fall Armyworm can be reduced with populations maintained at low enough levels to limit economic and livelihood damage – FAO,” Jover said. (EDT/PIA9-Zamboanga del Norte/with reports from DA9)