When the destructive fall armyworm arrived in Asia in the summer of 2018, scientists were not taken by surprise. They had been anticipating its arrival on the continent as the next stage of its aggressive eastward journey, driven by changing climatic conditions and international trade routes. The pest, native to North and South America, had invaded and spread throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa within two years (2016-18), severely damaging billions of dollars of maize crops and threatening food security for millions of people.
After reaching India in 2018, the pest spread to other parts of Asia, including Bangladesh, mainland China, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
The spread of FAW through the Indian subcontinent has been particularly fast. In 2019, the pest has spread as far as Mizoram in the northeast, Uttar Pradesh in the north, Gujarat in the west, Chhattisgarh in central India, and several states in the south.
Scientists are not surprised at the fast transmission of FAW. “We have already seen in Africa that the infestation spread from one country, Nigeria, to almost half of the continent in a matter of two years (2016-2018),” said Malvika Chaudhry, regional coordinator, Plantwise Asia, Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI).
In another report, researchers from Maharashtra noted FAW’s presence in sugarcane and sorghum. A statement by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare confirmed last year that FAW infestation on sorghum and ragi (finger millet). The only consolation of sorts is that the spread in these crops has not been as rapid as than in corn.
Trade sources reports suggest that fall armyworm has infested 700,000 hectares under maize crop cultivation in the year 2019-20 (Jul-Jun) Kharif season which is 40% more than that of 500,000 hectares affected in the previous year.
A serious crop damage has also been detected for the first time in Australia, fall armyworm is a strong flyer and has been spreading rapidly through South East Asian countries in recent months.
Source: Online media reports