Crop-destroying Armyworm caterpillar detected in Asia

In addition to maize, the armyworm can devour more than 180 plant species including rice, cotton and sugar cane. (Simon Maina/AFP)
Updated 09 August 2018

Crop-destroying Armyworm caterpillar detected in Asia

  • A caterpillar native to the Americas that has devastated crops across Africa has made its way to Asia
  • The pest was first detected in Africa in 2016 and has since spread to more than 40 African countries causing massive destruction

NEW DELHI: A caterpillar native to the Americas that has devastated crops across Africa has made its way to Asia, scientists in India said Thursday, warning of a threat to food security.
Scientists at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research said a survey had identified fall armyworm or Spodoptera frugiperda on more than 70 percent of maize crops examined in the Chikkaballapur area of southern Karnataka state, the first time the armyworm has been spotted in Asia.
In addition to maize, the pest can devour more than 180 plant species including rice, cotton and sugar cane, according to the Center for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), a not-for-profit group.
A.S. Vastrad, a scientist with the University of Agriculture Sciences, said the yellowish-brown caterpillar had the potential to spread rapidly to India’s neighboring states and countries.
“The female lays eggs very rapidly and the pest has already entered two more Indian states, Tamil Nadu and Telangana,” he told AFP.
The pest was first detected in Africa in 2016 and has since spread to more than 40 African countries causing massive destruction to maize, a staple food crop essential for food security in large areas of Africa and Asia.
It is likely that the armyworm arrived in India through human-aided transport after slipping through regulatory systems.
Natural migration is also a possibility as the moth can fly hundreds of kilometers in one night on prevailing winds.
“Rapid action is necessary as the pest has the potential to spread to other Asian countries owing to suitable climatic conditions and the prominent cultivation of maize in the region,” CABI said in a report on its website.
Before turning into a moth the armyworm destroys young plants, attacking their growing points and burrowing into cobs in older plants.
Vastrad said farmers in India were using some pesticides on an ad-hoc basis which had proved effective so far but there was a danger of the worm becoming resistant over time.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says it has invested more than $9 million from its regular budget and mobilized $12 million for its fall armyworm programs.


Report: Fugitive tech boss was Austrian spy agency informant

Updated 30 October 2020

Report: Fugitive tech boss was Austrian spy agency informant

  • Jan Marsalek faces allegations of fraud and other charges in connection with the company’s sudden bankruptcy earlier this year
  • German federal police issued a wanted poster for Marsalek in August

BERLIN: German media report that a fugitive former top executive of payment company Wirecard was an informant for the Austrian spy agency BVT.
Jan Marsalek, the former chief operating officer of Wirecard, faces allegations of fraud and other charges in connection with the company’s sudden bankruptcy earlier this year.
Munich-based Wirecard filed for protection from creditors in June after executives admitted that 1.9 billion euros ($2.2 billion) listed as being held in trust accounts in the Philippines probably did not exist.
The Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily reported Friday that German federal prosecutors have evidence Marsalek was a source for the BVT agency. The newspaper cited a German government response to Left party lawmaker Fabio De Masi.
German lawmaker Patrick Sensburg, who sits on the parliamentary intelligence oversight committee, told business daily Handelsblatt that Marsalek may have worked for several spy agencies simultaneously. He didn’t elaborate.
German federal police issued a wanted poster for Marsalek in August. Interpol issued a so-called red notice for him on allegations of “violations of the German duty on securities act and the securities trading act, criminal breach of trust (and) especially serious case of fraud.”
As chief operating officer, Marsalek was in charge of all operational business activities, including sales, and is suspected of having inflated the balance sheet total and sales volume of the company, police said.
Former Wirecard CEO Markus Braun has been arrested, along with the company’s former chief financial officer and former head of accounting.
Police allege that Braun and Marsalek incorporated “fictitious proceeds from payment transactions relating to deals with so-called third-party acquirers in order to present the company financially stronger and more attractive to investors and customers.”