Training an army of giants for the biological control of Fall Armyworm
Scouting for natural enemies of the fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) (FAW) in both Asia and Africa, and establishing mass-rearing facilities will aid the biological control program in the fight against the voracious pest.
A five-day workshop, organized by ICRISAT-Niger research station in July, trained 27 participants from 16 African and Asian countries on monitoring and management of FAW.
After receiving inputs on the biology, taxonomy, ecology, and distribution of FAW in their respective countries by experts, the participants were trained hands-on on preparing diets for rearing the pest and the rice moth. Fall armyworm eggs are used for producing the beneficial parasitoid Telenomus remus, and eggs of the rice moth for producing the beneficial parasitoid Trichogramma.
The fall armyworm, a pest native to the tropical and subtropical Americas, invaded Africa and Asia in 2016 and 2018, respectively. It is a serious pest that devours over 300 plant species, including maize and sorghum, which feed millions of people every day. Since, FAW has caused billions of dollars’ worth of damage in Africa and Asia. Biological control is one of the safe, effective, and socially acceptable options available for integration into the management of FAW.
In 2018, ICRISAT-Niger in collaboration with Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique du Niger (INRAN), University of Maradi, and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management found two natural enemies of the fall armyworm, Telenomus remus and Trichogramma, which attack its eggs. Telenomus remus and Trichogramma populations are low early in the season; hence, mass production and early release of the natural enemies will suppress the pest throughout the cropping season. The same team has used this approach known as augmentative biological control successfully for controlling the millet head miner in the Sahel.
The participants of the workshop learnt how to differentiate the males and females of different parasitoid species and different steps toward rearing them. The training also involved scouting eggs of the FAW for assessment of parasitism and collecting egg parasitoids to start a culture. Finally, participants learnt how to release the parasitoid once a culture is established.
Trainees for this workshop came from Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Mali, Nepal, Niger, Senegal, Sudan, Togo and Vietnam. The workshop was supported by INRAN and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management (IPM Innovation Lab), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), TAAT Sorghum and Millet Compact and the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals.