Fall Armyworm is a highly destructive pest and is known globally to have caused a serious challenge to farmers across continents and across crops. Fall Armyworm (FAW) (Spodoptera frugiperda), a native of America, is an invasive pest spreading across the world, with its incidence in African agriculture in 2016 followed by its first-time appearance on maize in the Indian state of Karnataka in August 2018. In last two seasons, Kharif and Rabi 2018, the fall armyworm has emerged as a major threat to farmers & Indian agriculture due to its high incidence and consequent damage especially to maize. The early emergence in crop life cycle, voracious feeding habit, large-scale aggressive behavior, high reproduction, fast migration and irreparable nature of crop damage, all make it a key pest. Notably, the FAW feeds on many host plants and has been found on sweet corn, baby corn, maize, sugarcane and sorghum, and can feed on many other agriculturally important foods & feed crops in India. As of now, the pest is reported in the states of Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal.
On 8th March 2019, the South Asia Biotechnology Centre launched an ambitious and multi-year project SAFFAL to safeguard agriculture and farmers against fall armyworm in India. The project aims at using education as the weapon to the problem. The project is supported by FMC India, Mumbai, a global leader in sustainable crop protection and will work in collaboration with key stakeholders from agricultural value chains which potentially may get impacted due to the spread of Fall Armyworm in India.
The project SAFFAL aims at developing a suite of techniques, good agricultural practices and control measures along with educational material for various stakeholders to enhance farmers’ preparedness to tackle the menace of fall armyworm.
In this context, Dr CD Mayee, a renowned plant epidemiologist and the President of the South Asia Biotechnology Centre (SABC), New Delhi stated that “Practical experiences of successfully dealing with pink bollworm in cotton through involvement of smallholder farmers will be explored and replicated to overcome the threat of fall armyworm”, In the recent past, SABC in collaboration with key stakeholders has successfully implemented a massive program “war on pink bollworm” in Vidharbha region of Maharashtra. The FAW presents a significant challenge to smallholder farmers by substantially increasing cost of production, reducing productivity and farmers’ income and thus a considerable threat to Indian agriculture.
Salient features of Project SAFFAL:
Develop knowledge resources on Fall armyworm based on global scientific data and experiences and include verifiable reports from domestic sources.
Status report on fall armyworm, its biology, life cycle, feeding habits, adverse economic impact assessment, distribution and migration and host-pest interactions to be collected, collated and expertly analysed in the Indian context.
Create a dedicated web-based portal www.fallarmyworm.org.in with repository of information and network of institutions to spread information in India.
Organize farm demonstrations in collaboration with respective public sector institutions to showcase IPM package of practices.
Build capacity & skills of smallholder farmers by organizing on the farm programs, field visits and farmers’ mela at demonstration field to spread information about best practices.
In this context, Logo of the Project SAFAL was unveiled and further actions will be taken in this regard to implement the project immediately.