Government on alert as destructive fall armyworm spreads in Southeast Asia

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The Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) has ordered its regional directors to monitor farms to determine the immediate presence of the highly destructive fall armyworm, which is now wreaking havoc on plantations in neighboring Southeast Asian countries.

BPI OIC-Director George Y. Culaste issued the directive to the agency’s regional executive directors in a memorandum dated May 9.

“In view of the continuous and rapid spread of fall armyworm in our neighboring countries and since the Philippine climatic conditions is conducive to the preference of the devastating pest, you are hereby advised to alert your staff to engage in pest surveillance,” the memo read.

“You are also advised to closely monitor the pest by conducting detection survey in your respective regions to determine its presence for immediate management,” it added.

Culaste noted that fall
armyworm was reported in Africa in 2016. The destructive pest has since spread from the African continent to India and several Asia-Pacific countries, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand and China.

Reports from these countries indicate that it has caused billions of dollars worth of damage to corn and other crops and caused food insecurity in some African countries. In Zimbabwe, for instance, the pest was tagged as one of the major factors behind rural food shortages.

“Fall armyworm poses a threat outside its range particularly in temperate regions because adult armyworm can travel several hundred kilometers in a single day by flying to and maintaining an elevation of several hundred meters at which height winds can transport them in a directional manner,” the memo read.

Culaste noted that it has been reported in more than 90 countries and it is capable of dispersing further via commercial trade or strong migratory flight behavior.

The BPI, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture, said the pest in Central America destroyed some 70 percent of yield when it was not controlled.

The agency also said the pest is difficult to control as it has natural levels of tolerance to some insecticidal proteins and has demonstrated ability to develop resistance to insectides and traits.

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