New crop-devastating fall armyworm spotted in Asia

cat fallThis can pose significant threat to Asia-Pacific’s food security. (Image source: K-State Research and Extension/Flickr)

India has recently experienced a fall armyworm infestation and according to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) scientists, the caterpillar can affect crops across the Asia-Pacific region if rapid action is not taken

Native to the Americas, the caterpillar has ravaged African maize production since it was discovered in Nigeria in 2016.

According to the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), the fall armyworm can destroy more than 180 plant species including rice, maize, cotton and sugar cane, alarmingly impacting Asia’s food security.

This poses a significant threat to China’s maize production, Pakistan’s wheat and cotton, India and other South East Asian nation’s rice productions and many others. The caterpillars eat the outer leaves of the crops, attack plants’ growing points and burrow into cobs in older plants, thus threatening to crops in all seasons and making a huge loss for farmers.

Fall armyworm is already an alarming risk to South East Asia and South China, mainly due to their climatic condition, largely impacting small-scale farmers who often struggle to deal with a new pest. Therefore, if the new caterpillar spreads widely in the region, it will exacerbate the farmers’ problem throughout the region.

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