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New Study Reveals Natural Enemies of Fall Armyworm in Both Asia and Africa

Entomology Today

By Sara Hendery
The fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) is a resilient pest that has wreaked havoc throughout Africa and Asia in recent years, despite persistent efforts to mitigate its spread.

Native to the Americas, the fall armyworm reached Africa in 2016 and Asia in 2018, attacking maize and hundreds of other vital plant species. In 2017, it was assessed that the economic value of fall armyworm damage in 12 countries in Africa could be between $2.5 billion and $6.3 billion. The pest’s resilience to harsh conditions and chemical pesticides—especially amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, which has limited agricultural labor and production efforts—is setting unprecedented challenges for farmers in the developing world.

In 2018, the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management initiated a biological control approach to combat the fall armyworm, searching for natural enemies that could safely and economically prevent the pest from spreading further. The team found two natural enemies—parasitoid wasps in the genera Telenomus and Trichogramma—in East Africa, which showed up to 70 percent parasitism of fall armyworm eggs. New research recently published in the Indian Journal of Entomology reveals that the IPM Innovation Lab, in collaboration with a host of global institutions, has now found natural enemies of the fall armyworm in Asia as well.

The study confirms the occurrence of egg parasitoids Trichogramma mwanzai and Telenomus remus in East Africa and reports the presence of egg parasitoids Trichogramma chilonis and Telenomus remus in Nepal. Institutions including FAO, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Niger, the National Biological Control Centre in Tanzania, the Nepal Agricultural Research Council, the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization were involved in surveying and identifying the natural enemies in maize fields.

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