Emergency permit to combat fall armyworm

Rural Business April 22, 2020

Biosecurity Queensland says the latest discovery of fall armyworm to the west of Cairns is a blow to agriculture.

Eradicating the potentially catastrophic pest from Australia will likely prove impossible after detections of the moth nearly 1000 kilometres south of its original detection point.

Fall armyworm is native to tropical and sub-tropical areas of America. Initial detection in Africa during 2016 saw it spread to more than 30 countries over a three-year period.

In 2018, for the first time, fall armyworm was detected in India and Sri Lanka. In 2019, it spread to Asian countries, including Bangladesh, Thailand, Myanmar, China and Indonesia.

Fall armyworm has been more recently detected on the northern Torres Strait islands and, early this year, at the tip of Cape York. It has now spread south and west across mainland Australia.

Fall armyworm is known to feed on more than 350 plant species, including maize, cotton, rice, sorghum, sugar cane, wheat and many vegetable and fruit crops, causing significant economic loss. Destruction of crops can happen almost overnight when infestation levels are high.

CSIRO senior research scientist Dr Wee Tek Tay said none of the 65 countries that fall armyworm had invaded had successfully attempted to eradicate it, largely because of the difficulty of doing so. “It can fly 100 or 200 kilometres quite easily, especially with the right conditions and prevailing winds,” he said.

Corteva Agriscience helped Hort Innovation to successfully secure an emergency use permit from the APVMA to allow the use of Success Neo for the control of this potentially devastating pest.

Success Neo insecticide contains one of only two active ingredients currently permitted for the control of fall armyworm in Australia.

“Success Neo is an excellent product with proven efficacy on fall armyworm whilst delivering a high degree of selectivity to key beneficial insects and safety for farm workers and the environment,” said Dr Rob Annetts from Corteva.

He did stress, however, that Success Neo is not a ‘silver bullet’.

“Effective fall armyworm management requires multiple approaches, including tactics such as eliminating weed hosts, monitoring, and actions to control the pest once it is detected,” he said.

“The highly migratory behaviour of this pest means that effective and sustained control requires areawide management implementation.”

Dr Annetts also stressed the importance of rotating between available control options to avoid the overuse of Success Neo and minimise the potential for resistance to develop.

“Success Neo has been the cornerstone of integrated pest management programs in a range of crops for nearly two decades – and we continue to expand the label uses,” he said.

“We are currently working on registrations for the control of tomato potato psyllid (TPP) in potatoes and onion thrips in onions, amongst other label updates.”

This popularity however means that growers have to be very careful to follow label directions, paying particular attention to the number of sprays being applied per season, using the correct label rates and spraying only when economic thresholds are reached in order to prolong the effective life of this very important product.

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