The fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) is marching across Africa and destroying maize fields with an astonishing speed, after arriving from the Western Hemisphere at least 16 months ago. The damage to maize could total $3 billion in the next 12 months. Eventually, damage could be limited with a range of pest-management techniques, including plant extracts such as neem oil or biopesticides based on viruses that infect armyworms. Parasitoid wasps could serve as biological control. Planting insect-repellant legumes alongside the maize seems to help deter the fall armyworm as well. The pest appears likely to spread beyond Africa. Migration or trade could bring the pest to Europe or Asia. Includes interview with Prof Ken Wilson.
by Erik Stokstad