Fall Armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) in South Kivu, DR Congo: Understanding How Season and Environmental Conditions Influence Field Scale Infestations
The fall armyworm (FAW) Spodoptera frugiperda (J. E. Smith) has become a global devastating pest because of its broad dispersal capacity and the high crop damages. At present, research on FAW infestations of crops in the DR Congo remains undocumented. Here, FAW infestations in two agro-ecological zones (Kabare and Ruzizi Plain) were compared in South-Kivu Province. Surveys were carried out during the early 2018 and late 2019 crop seasons to assess the impact of FAW on maize crops. In each agro-ecological zone, 50 fields were selected for investigation. A total of hundred (100) fields were assessed in the 2018 crop season. During the 2019 crop season, the same fields were investigated. The two zones had very different bioclimatic characteristics. FAW attacks were more pronounced under conditions of relatively high temperatures with high evapotranspiration, which occurred in the Ruzizi Plain and late 2019 season. In comparison, Kabare territory and the early 2018 season were characterized by heavy rainfall. The incidence, level of leaf damage, and density of FAW larvae varied significantly with season and agro-ecological zone. The Ruzizi Plain had the highest incidence (60 ± 30%), level of leaf damage and larval density (28.5 ± 19.3). The late 2019 season had the highest incidence (70 ± 20%) as well as the larval density (27.8 ± 19.2). Total annual number of FAW generations was 5.64 and 3.36 in the Ruzizi Plain and Kabare territory, respectively. In conclusion, FAW infestation represents a major problem for agricultural production due to the climatic conditions in the study region.