Fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) is now considered established in Australia. It has been detected by Biosecurity Queensland at several sites on mainland Australia including the Northern Territory, Western Australia, New South Wales and recently in Victoria. Fall armyworm has been confirmed in sugarcane on the Atherton Tablelands region, on cane bordering heavily infested maize crops.
Fall armyworm is an invasive pest and its larval (caterpillar) stage feeds on more than 350 plant species, and impacts cultivated grasses such as maize, rice, sorghum, sugarcane and wheat, as well as fruit and vegetable and cotton crops. Fall armyworm is native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, and since 2016 has spread to Africa, the Indian subcontinent, China and South East Asia.
Adult moths are highly mobile and can fly long distances (up to 200km). This pest is also prolific, reproducing at a rate of several generations per year. Australia’s climate and the production of suitable hosts are favourable for fall armyworm to establish and spread. Australia’s environment and native flora may also be impacted.
DAF Queensland is continuing to undertake surveillance across key farming areas. The National Management Group has determined that it is not technically feasible to eradicate fall armyworm from Australia.
The information sheet below has more detailed information on the sugarcane industry’s response to fall armyworm.
SRA and industry partners have worked with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) on an emergency use permit for Permethrin to control fall armyworm. This permit allows a person to use the product in the manner specified in this permit in Queensland and New South Wales. The APVMA also advises that trichlorfon and chlorpyrifos can also be used against FAW in sugarcane (where the product states use against ‘armyworms’ but doesn’t specify species). These chemicals require careful and considered use, given their environmental risk.
Correct identification of the insect is very important. Overuse (or use when not required) of this type of product could potentially lead to insecticide resistance and impact natural enemies or beneficial insects.