THE Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) has approved the importation of a biological control agent into Australia as part of research into fall armyworm (FAW) control options.
The importation of the biopesticide, Fawligen, a naturally occurring caterpillar virus which specifically targets FAW, has been welcomed by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).
This decision will allow the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) to start trial work investigating the effectiveness of the virus and assessing any potential adverse impacts.
GRDC manager chemical regulation Gordon Cumming said the importation of Fawligen for research purposes was a significant step in assessing a potential biological control tool and its suitability for Australian conditions.
“FAW was first detected in Queensland in January 2020 and has now spread to the Northern Territory, Western Australia and New South Wales causing significant concern to the grain and horticulture sectors,” Mr Cumming said.
“Given the rapid spread of FAW and the impact the pest is having, the GRDC is supportive of research investigating all management options.”
Fawligen is produced in the United States by the Australian company AgBiTech.
DAF researchers will now work with closely with AgBiTech in small scale trials to assess the effectiveness of Fawligen on Australian FAW populations, under local conditions and in various crops.
Mr Cumming said this research would assist in the development of data to inform a submission to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Authority (APVMA) which would determine whether Fawligen could be approved for use in Australian agriculture.
“While the GRDC support the decision to import Fawligen for research purposes we are aware this is just the first of many steps to gain regulatory approval for growers to use the product on-farm,” he said.
“The reality is registration of Fawligen in Australia could take several years.
“Queensland growers in particular are very familiar with the use of viruses as biological controls – with Vivus successfully used to target helicoverpa – so they are keen to see natural control options investigated.”
Further information: The Fall Armyworm Continuity Plan captures the global experience and uses that to inform and anticipate the challenges Australian agriculture could face and how to best manage them.
More information about FAW – including current regulatory and permit options – is available on the GRDC FAW portal.