Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda)
Fall armyworm is a pest of more than 80 kinds of plant, including maize, rice, sugarcane and cotton. It is found throughout North, South and Central America, where it has caused significant crop damage for decades. In Brazil, fall armyworm is estimated to cost US$600 million annually in management costs alone. Fall armyworm has developed resistance to insecticides and biotech crops in a number of regions, and growers need new solutions to control this increasingly difficult-to-control pest.
Native to the Americas, fall armyworm invaded Africa in 2016 and has rapidly spread to at least 28 countries, and more recently invading Asia, where it is anticipated to cause widespread damage to farmers’ crops.
Oxitec’s Friendly™ fall armyworm represents a highly promising solution to manage fall armyworm in synergy with other management tools such as insecticides and biotech crops. We are working together with a collaborator to develop a Friendly™ fall armyworm, which will be intended for growers who currently find this pest difficult to manage. Like Oxitec’s 2nd Generation Aedes aegypti, the Friendly™ fall armyworm carries a self-limiting gene, which enables production of male-only cohorts of the insect. After release into the field, these Friendly™ males will find and mate with wild females. The self-limiting gene is passed to their offspring, preventing female offspring from surviving to reproduce. With sustained releases of Friendly™ male fall armyworm on a given field, the number of wild females will therefore decline, causing the number of resident fall armyworm to reduce. Friendly™ fall armyworm may potentially protect efficacy of other fall armyworm management tools, including insecticides and biotech crops, by counteracting pest resistance to these tools.
The Friendly™ approach is highly targeted, meaning non-target insects – like bees and natural predators – are left unaffected. The self-limiting gene also disappears within a few generations, once releases stop.
The current focus of development of Friendly™ fall armyworm is currently advancing scale-up of the technology and the launch of initial field trials in Brazil.
Read more about how our solution works here.
What kind of crop does it damage?
More than 80 kinds of plants, including maize, rice, sugarcane and cotton.
How does it damage them?
The caterpillars feed on the leaves and stems of plants.
Where is it found?
North, South and Central America, and since 2016 it has been spreading throughout Africa and Asia.
What are the economic costs?
Fall armyworm can be very difficult to control, causing losses of 17-52% of farmers’ crops. Current control measures include sprayed insecticides, biological control and biotech crops. Resistance to conventional control tools is a growing problem. In Africa maize losses are estimated to be US$6.1 billion annually, if adequate control measures are not identified and put in place.