Study reveals natural enemies of fall armyworm in both Asia and Africa

11.09.2020

In 2018, the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management initiated a biological control approach to combat fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), searching for natural enemies that could safely and economically prevent the pest from spreading further. The team found two natural enemies – parasitoid wasps in the genera Telenomus and Trichogramma – in East Africa, which showed up to 70 percent parasitism of fall armyworm eggs.

New research recently published in the Indian Journal of Entomology reveals that the IPM Innovation Lab, in collaboration with a host of global institutions, has now found natural enemies of the fall armyworm in Asia as well.

The study confirms the occurrence of egg parasitoids Trichogramma mwanzai and Telenomus remus in East Africa and reports the presence of egg parasitoids Trichogramma chilonis and Telenomus remus in Nepal.

Institutions including FAO, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Niger, the National Biological Control Centre in Tanzania, the Nepal Agricultural Research Council, the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization were involved in surveying and identifying the natural enemies in maize fields. The study also offers an inventory of natural enemies of the fall armyworm found predominately in the Americas.

“These natural enemies do not occur in abundant populations early enough in the season to successfully suppress the fall armyworm on a large scale,” said Muni Muniappan, PhD, director of the IPM Innovation Lab and a co-author of the study, “which is why we will mass-produce them in the lab for an inoculative, augmentative biocontrol approach.”

Trichogramma species can be successfully reared on an alternative host, the rice meal moth Corcyra cephalonica, which cuts mass-production costs in half. Research is ongoing to assess whether Telenomus can be effectively reared on the alternative host as well.

The IPM Innovation Lab, which is housed at Virginia Tech and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, has already conducted trainings on augmentative biocontrol using the natural enemies at ICRISAT-Niger and icipe-Kenya with participants from around the world, including scientists from Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Nepal, Niger, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, and Vietnam.

The study emphasizes that now that the natural enemies have been found in Asia and Africa, the next step is establishing “satellite centres” in each country where the natural enemies can be mass-produced and subsequently released into the fields to feed on fall armyworm. Mass production is underway in East Africa and is currently being replicated in Nepal.


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