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Fall Armyworm in South Asia: Threats and Management

Fall armyworm arrived on the Indian subcontinent in May 2018 and now it has spread across  India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and approaching more beyond South East Asia. Strong flying capacity, climate adaptability, and wide host range makes them a better colonizing agent than other species of armyworms. Despite maize being primarily infested in this region, infestation on sugarcane, sorghum, cotton, and cabbage has already been reported from India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. National agricultural research bodies like ICAR, IIMR, NARC, BARI, etc. as well as international organizations like FAO, CGIAR, CIMMYT, and CABI are working at different levels in an effort to develop management strategies to combat the pest. Since it is practically impossible to eradicate the pest now, it is essential to work for long term management and in keeping the pest population below the economic injury level. Reliance on synthetic pesticides only is a temporary way of dealing with the pest. Educating the farmers themselves about the pest and practicing an integrated approach of management compatible and feasible in the region would be more sustainable. Identification and using native species of natural enemies, such as predators, parasites, and parasitoids is the current need for research. The experiences of smallholder farmers in Africa and South America in fall armyworm management might be relevant to South Asia.

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