Fall armyworm control
The Fall Armyworm (FAW) is an insect pest that feeds mainly on maize and more than 80 other crops, including sorghum, millet, sugar cane, vegetables and cotton. It is a transboundary pest that can fly over 100 km in a single night and has a high reproductive rate of over 1,000 eggs per female during her lifetime. The larval stage is the most devastating period with drastic yield loss, which has a negative impact on the overall economy. The pest is found to thrive at temperatures above 10 degrees Celsius, and the wings of moths deform above 30 degrees Celsius. Originating in the Americas, FAW has been reported in over 70 countries. As of October 2019, the presence of the pest has been confirmed in most Asian countries, including Nepal, China, Indonesia, India, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines.
This pest can cause significant yield losses and threaten the food security and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers and consumers. It causes damage in quantity and quality. In the Asia-Pacific region, the damage is at different levels. It is low and averages 5 to 40 percent in Nepal, depending on the season. As maize is a vital food and feed crop, damage from the fall armyworm has a direct impact on national economies, leading to global food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty among smallholder farmers.
Another major problem associated with CLA infestation is the increased use of hazardous pesticides. Significant challenges faced by countries in mitigating the damage caused by FAW include, among others, inadequate coordination, ineffective monitoring and control techniques, lack of alternatives to chemical pesticides and phytosanitary measures. ineffective and weak capacity to control the pest at the national level. Emphasis should be placed on limiting the spread and controlling pests rather than eradicating them.
In vigorous response to the rapid spread of FAW, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) launched a global action against FAW (GA, 2020-2022) in December 2019, aiming to promote the fight against FAW at global, regional and national levels. In the Asia and Pacific region, the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific organized an international conference in Bangkok, Thailand in March 2019 and brought together relevant scientists and practitioners to share knowledge and experiences and help the region prepare for the continued spread of the fall armyworm. in Asia.
In early August 2020, ASEAN approved a FAW action plan. In this regard, chaired by the Assistant Director-General of the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, a Regional Steering Group comprising 32 FAO member countries was established in June 2020. It focused on building the capacity of national plant protection organizations to coordinate and facilitate technical and experience exchange programs through virtual training activities with an emphasis on preparedness; establish early warning systems for monitoring and early action to prevent wider spread of the pest; implementing integrated pest management for sustainable management measures and, above all, anchoring the response around smallholder farmers. Importantly, the FAO regional office also supported emergency and technical cooperation projects in the countries concerned.
As the fall armyworm continues to spread, the FAO regional office stands ready to support member countries in dealing with its possible threats, focusing on early action, monitoring and learning from emerging threats. other regions, further strengthening the community of international experts, developing regional national action plans, and identifying current knowledge gaps to decide research priorities, as well as working closely with farmers and their organizations. The first immediate priority is the development of regional IPM packages in demonstration countries (including China, India and the Philippines) to be used and implemented by 15 pilot countries in the region. The FAO regional office has also supported technical cooperation programs in China, Laos, Pakistan, Vietnam and Indonesia in Asia, and in Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu in the Pacific in the areas of program formulation and implementation.
Considerable effort has been devoted to limiting the spread of FAW within affected countries as well as cross-border movement. One of the main achievements is the institutionalization of the programs in government systems through the creation of national task forces. In Nepal, a national task force has been set up under the chairmanship of the joint secretary level, which shows greater ownership of the work. These bodies oversee the development of action plans and the implementation of various integrated pest management programs in the countries. The emphasis is on the do-how approach with know-how. As a result, some countries have managed to contain the spread of the pest and limit its spread to a considerably low level.
However, in Nepal, such a large impact has not been reported, but low pest dispersal has been observed. An excellent foundation has been laid, where the breeding of natural enemies in provincial plant protection laboratories is undertaken. Likewise, knowledge products and the dissemination of citizen science-based technologies with the support of provincial ministries and agricultural knowledge centers are crucial.
Improvements in the labor force and functional capacity of farmers through the implementation of integrated pest management programs and programmatic interventions are essential to these results. In India, farmers have largely favored synthetic pesticides and chosen relatively cheaper pesticides over new generation insecticides that are highly effective against FAW. Despite the benefits, the frequency of pesticide application by farmers has increased significantly over the period.
In this regard, discouraging the widespread use of highly hazardous chemical pesticides needs constant attention. Emphasis should be placed on the selection and use of synthetic and locally produced, cost-effective and environmentally friendly artisanal bio-pesticides that are also affordable for farmers. In the future, these programs should incorporate the following elements: first, the evaluation of preferred crop varieties for resistance or tolerance to fall armyworm; second, the use of inoculative biological control as well as bio-pesticides; and finally, continued support in the implementation of phytosanitary and biosecurity measures supported by a favorable policy environment.