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272. Fall Armyworm, the “Coronavirus of Agriculture”

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Fall armyworm is a crop pest native to the Americas but its distribution areas has been expanding in recent years, with invasions in Africa in 2016 and Asia in 2018. It causes serious damage to more than 80 crops including corn, sorghum, rice and sugar cane, but is known to prefer corn in particular.

The damage to dairy farms and plantations caused by fall armyworm is also covered by the media in Australia [1], which is one of Japan's major food trading partners. Local farmers described the fall armyworm as the “coronavirus of agriculture” and “the biggest threat to the agriculture industry Australia has ever seen”. They also mentioned about spending thousands of dollars a week on pesticides to control fall armyworm with limited effects and added that investment in research is needed quickly. According to the news article, the damage caused by fall armyworm is enormous, including the impact on livestock and dairy farming due to lack of feed, and there is a risk that food prices will rise. On the other hand, the article also introduced the current state of development of control technology including the effectiveness of a naturally occurring caterpillar virus which specifically targets fall armyworm.

JIRCAS has focused on fall armyworm as an example showing the importance of research on transboundary plant pests [2]. We participated in an international conference Fall Armyworm Research-for-Development – Status and Priorities for Africa [3] and gathered information. In addition, we conducted a meeting to assess the research needs in establishing a comprehensive management system for the fall armyworm in Southeast Asia, which has been recently invaded by fall armyworm [4]. In the 5th Medium- to Long-term Plan, which started on April 1, 2021, we will continue to intensify our  research to develop environment-friendly control technology for fall armyworm mainly in Southeast Asia, and disseminate information in order to coordinate the efforts in addressing this global problem.


[1] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-27/fall-armyworm-tearing-its-way-th…
[2] https://www.jircas.go.jp/en/program/program_d/blog/20200528
[3] https://www.jircas.go.jp/ja/program/program_d/blog/20181101
[4] https://www.jircas.go.jp/en/program/program_d/blog/20191030

Contributor: KOBORI Youichi (Crop, Livestock and Environment Division)

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