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30. Transboundary Pests and the International Year of Plant Health ― Fall armyworm

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The global COVID-19 epidemic has significantly restricted the movement of people making it particularly difficult to cross borders these days. On the other hand, there are no borders for transboundary pests that have the ability to travel long distances. The desert locustoutbreak, which began in eastern Africa last year and arrived in Japan last, was even discussed in the Japanese Diet [1]. TheLepidopteran pest fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) is another global transboundary pest that has expanded in distribution areasin recent years.

The fall armyworm is an agricultural pest native to the Americas that causes serious damage to more than 80 crops including corn, sorghum, sugar cane, vegetables etc. It is also known to fly up to 100 km in a single night and to move long-distance as far as 500 km per generation [2]. Although it is originally a major plant pest in the tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, it has spread to almost all areas in Africa in just one year after invading the continent in 2016. A survey conducted in 2018 estimated that maize yield in the African continent was reduced by as much as 17.7 million tons per year due to this pest [3]. Last year, fall armyworm invaded the Asian continent and reached Japan in July. By the end of 2019, outbreaks have been confirmed in 21 prefectures, mainly in western Japan [2].

According to a report dated May 5, 2020, the fall armyworm has also invaded Australia in January this year and is rapidly expanding its habitat [4]. Last year, the average rainfall in Australia was the lowest ever recorded in history, but the average temperature was the highest ever. In addition to the natural disasters that are believed to be caused by climate change, the country has also been invaded by the fall armyworm. As transboundary pests can easily expand in high-latitude areas due to global warming, it is expected that the scaleand period of outbreaks will increase further. Similar to the new coronavirus measures, such problems cannot be resolved by any one country, and international cooperation is essential.

This year 2020 is the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH 2020), which aims to raise global awareness on the importance of efforts to prevent the spread of plant pests [5]. As part of these efforts, JIRCAS organized the International Symposium 2019 with the theme “International research collaboration to tackle transboundary plant pests: Contributions to Sustainable Development Goals” [6] and also participated in the “International Workshop on Facilitating Research Collaborations on Transboundary Plant Pests” organized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) [7]. In the future, we will continue to intensify our research on transboundary pests and disseminate information in cooperation with international organizations in order to coordinate the efforts in addressing this globalproblem.



1. https://www.jircas.go.jp/ja/program/program_d/blog/20200308_0

2. https://www.maff.go.jp/j/syouan/syokubo/keneki/k_kokunai/tumajiro.html

3. http://www.fao.org/fall-armyworm/background/en/

4. https://www.aap.com.au/destructive-pest-worm-threatens-aust-crops/

5. https://www.maff.go.jp/j/syouan/syokubo/keneki/iyph/iyph.html

6. https://www.jircas.go.jp/ja/reports/2019/r20191128_0

7. https://www.jircas.go.jp/ja/reports/2019/r20191129_0


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

Fall armyworm larva