Could Integrated Pest Management Offer Solutions to Armyworm?

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In short
Maize and rice researchers in Eastern and Southern Africa are exploring the possibility of applying Integrated Pest Management IPM to contain the fall army worm.

Maize and rice researchers in Eastern and Southern Africa are exploring the possibility of applying Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to contain the fall army worm.

They say the best possible medium and long-term solution against the invasive pests that feed on several crops is Integrated Pest Management.

B.M. Prasanna, director of International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) based in Nairobi, says IPM combines multiple solutions, including pheromone traps, agronomic management, chemical control, biological control, community-based forecasting and early warning system.

Prasanna says maize scientists based in eastern and southern Africa will undertake experiments to screen elite maize germplasm, including germplasm developed earlier through a project called Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA).

The aim according to Prasanna is to identify potential sources of even partial resistance to the insect-pest. He says although Insect Resistant Maize for Africa project targeted stem-borer and post-harvest insect-pests, it will be important to screen this germplasm to see whether they can find some sources of resistance. 
Germplasms are living tissues from which new plants can be grown. Germplasm can be a seed or another plant part - a leaf, a piece of stem, pollen or even just a few cells that can be turned into a whole plant.

Prasanna in an interview with Uganda Radio Network says CIMMYT agronomists based in Africa will experiment on suitable management practices to minimise the damage in maize-based cropping systems.  

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) and Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa will meet in May this year to design an Integrated Pest Management strategy against fall army worm.

The first step in responding to invasive pests like the fall army worm involves designing a pest management strategy which is currently lacking in all the African countries so far faced with fall army worm. 

Meanwhile Prasanna says one of the most important cultural practices employed widely in the United States is early planting and planting early maturing varieties.

Early harvests, according to Prasanna, allows maize tassel ears to escape the higher army worm densities that develop later in the season.

Some extension workers have advised farmers in Zambia to inter-crop maize with other different crops in order to minimise loss. But Prasanna says army worms (Spodoptera frugiperda) attack nearly 80 different plant species, including maize, rice, wheat, sorghum, millet, cassava, cotton, cow-peas, groundnut, soybean, potato and sesame among  others.

He says there is need to conduct experiments to identify which specific crops are less-preferred by the pest and therefore, can work well as inter-crops in maize fields.

"At present, this information is lacking in Africa, as the pest is a very recent introduction," said Prasanna.

The invasive army worm suspected to be fall armywarm is being investigated to have broken out in twenty districts in Uganda.

In the United States, the fall army worm ranks second among seven of the most damaging agricultural pests leading to significant economic losses both on crops and wild plant species.