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What is fall armyworm?

Fall armyworm (FAW) Spodoptera frugiperda (J.E. Smith) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) is a destructive pest native to Americas, recently invaded India and presently causing economic damage in maize. The incidence of this pest was first observed in Shivamogga, Karnataka on 18th May 2018. FAW was later reported in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim at mild to alarming levels in farmer’s fields. Which crops are in danger?

Maize! It is primarily a pest of maize. If maize is not available it will look for sorghum! If both are not available it will attack other crops belong to poaceae, the family of grasses, such as sugarcane, rice, wheat, ragi, fodder grasses etc. It may attack cotton and vegetables as well, which is not reported yet. How to recognize FAW has arrived in your field? Adult moth is a strong flier, can fly over 100 Km in search of host plants. Pheromone traps specific to FAW will attract male moths. Male moth has two characteristic markings, viz., a fawn coloured spot towards the centre and a white patch at the apical margin of forewing.

What the moths will do after reaching its favourite crops? A female moth lays over 1000 eggs in single or multiple clusters, covered with hairs (Figure 2A a). Incubation period varies from 4.30±0.57 to 5.67±0.58 days. New born larvae in groups disperse from the hatching site and reach to feed on epidermal layers of lower surface of young leaves. Larvae undergo 6 stages called instars (Figure 2 B 1st to 6th) in its growth of 14.33±0.58 to 17.60±0.57 days and then undergo pupation. Pupa is reddish brown in colour (Figure 2A c) and takes 7.33±0.58 to 8.30±2.30 days to emerge into adult moth (Figure 2A d). Adult moth can survive 3.67±0.58 to 6.30±1.52 days. The total life-cycle takes 30.67±1.15 to 34.60±2.88 days (Figure 2A) as observed from August to January under natural rearing conditions in ICAR-IIMR Winter Nursery Centre, Hyderabad. Only the larval stage of FAW damages maize.

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