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.


Tigray forces say they ‘completely destroyed’ Ethiopia’s 21st mechanized division

Updated 24 November 2020

Tigray forces say they ‘completely destroyed’ Ethiopia’s 21st mechanized division

  • A government spokesman did not return calls seeking comment
NAIROBI: Tigrayan forces battling Ethiopia’s federal government said on Tuesday they ‘completely destroyed’ the army’s 21st mechanized division, a day after they claimed they had destroyed a helicopter and a tank.
The statement was made during a television broadcast on Tuesday.
A government spokesman did not return calls seeking comment. Reuters has been unable to verify claims by either side since phone and Internet connections to the Tigray region are down and access to the area is strictly controlled.