Beware the Fall Armyworm (FAW)

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Agricultural experts are bracing for a possible disaster in Myanmar caused by the fall armyworm (FAW) caterpillar, as the FAW threat looms.
The larvae stage of the Fall Armyworm moth (Spodoptera frugiperda), commonly known in the country as the ‘Sena caterpillar’, has the potential to destroy hundreds of acres of cultivation overnight and could affect over 180 species of crops, including paddy, maize, sugarcane, green gram, other vegetables and fruits.
The caterpillar, which is native to the Americas, was first reported in Africa in 2016 and has since spread to over 40 African countries and devastated thousands of acres of crops.
First reported in India in May this year, a suspected species of FAW has been found in Sri Lanka and our neighbouring country Bangladesh.
Following the destruction of crops by local species of caterpillars, and information from the affected neighbouring countries, the Ministry of Agriculture issued a warning to farmers about a possible trans-border FAW invasion. The destruction of crops has already been reported in some areas.
At the “FALL Armyworm (FAW) in Myanmar” workshop in Nay Pyi Taw on 5th December last year, agricultural experts calculated the “Risk Prediction of FAW”. They predicted that Shan State, Rakhine State, Chin State, Kayah State, Nay Pyi Taw Region and Sagaing Region are expected to be at high risk for FALL, while Yangon and Taninthayi regions are at a mid-level risk, while Mandalay, Magway, Bago and Ayeyawady regions, and Mon, Kayinj and Kachin states, are at a low risk.
To date, there is no defined method of eradicating FAW, so we should step up our efforts to raise awareness about FAW among farmers through mass communication media and social media.
SMS messages and social media information aim to share information about the control measures, as well as other important advice that all farmers can use to manage the pest.
Meanwhile, agricultural experts in regions and states are currently monitoring the maize crops in their respective areas, and they are sending suspected FAW samples to the pest prevention and control head office in Yangon, once they discover them.
Monitoring and early warning is a major step in preventing the spread of the pest.
Strengthening monitoring and early warning systems through TV, radio, social media and mobile phone apps would be helpful for farmers to collect and record data on their crops, as well as on FAW infestation levels, and to learn of utilized control measures.

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