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Is the Fall Armyworm on the Rise?

September 21, 2021 in Agricultural, News
Is the Fall Armyworm on the Rise?

According to two recent articles by Genevieve Croft, International Affairs Fellow, Office of the Chief Scientist in Research and Science, and Adam Russell, Texas A&M AgriLife Communications, the Fall Armyworm is on the rise and according to Croft “posing a threat to global food security.”

In Crofts recent article, she says that the “Fall Armyworm (Spdoptera frugiperda) is a destructive pest that can feed on 80 different crop species, including corn.” Read the full article here.

In Russell’s article on July 20, 2021, he says that “Left unchecked, armyworms can destroy forage crops in a matter of hours.” Read full article here.

Russell sites Vanessa Corriher-Olson, AgriLife Extension forage specialist, who says “it is critical that producers have pesticides ready for applications as soon as armyworm numbers near the recommended threshold. Armyworms in those numbers should be treated immediately because they consume 85% of their diet in the last two or three days of their larval stage. It’s important to act immediately because if armyworms are left unchecked, they can devastate a forage crop in a matter of hours.” Corriher-Olson goes on to say “pesticides are the only way to prevent armyworms from consuming existing stands or new growth post-harvest.”

Armyworms are a problem until the first killing frost. Regarding pesticides, Corriher-Olson says “armyworms are not a ‘spray once and they won’t be a problem’ kind of thing. This could be a two-, three- or four-spray situation ...” She suggests that producers should have products on hand and be prepared for immediate action when armyworms near threshold.

Typically, armyworms move north from Mexico and South Texas as temperatures warm in the spring. Corriher-Olson said that “generations will push further north into Midwestern states, ....” Because armyworms are primarily night feeds, she recommends that producers should check each morning for armyworms. Drier, hotter conditions slow the life cycles, but rainfall and cooler temperatures can trigger major infestations when local populations, new hatches and migrating moths descend on areas with quality food sources.

“They are there the whole time, we just may not see them due to their size, numbers or both,” she said. “It just takes the right weather conditions, and you can see an explosion in a matter of days.” According to a 2019 report by Allen Knutson, retired AgriLife Extension entomologist, armyworm moths can lay up to 2,000 eggs that hatch in two to three days.

Corriher-Olson recommends insecticides labeled for armyworm control in pastures and hayfields, including pyrethroids, which are affective in killing the caterpillars. But a combination of pyrethroid and growth inhibitor is recommended. “The pyrethroid only takes care of the ones that are in the field while the growth inhibitor provides a residual affect that will kill new hatches and any caterpillars that migrate into the field,” she said.

The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, conducted a study that evaluated three insecticides for controlling the Yellow-striped armyworm (Spodoptera ornithogalli), the Diamondback moth, and the Cabbage Looper. Of the three insecticides tested, only Armorex is OMRI-Listed, and for use in in organic agriculture. The results of this study with regards to the Yellow-striped armyworm show that Armorex had the second lowest mean. Click here to read the full research report.

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