GRAIN growers have been urged to remain alert but not alarmed about the possibility of a new pest, fall armyworm, in crops this growing season.
The warning comes after two moths were recently detected in a pheromone trap in a summer forage crop near Northam by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD).
It is the second detection of the pest in the grainbelt, after it was confirmed in Geraldton in July 2020, although there is no evidence the pest has become established in the region.
There have been numerous detections in other crops between Kununurra to Gingin, where fall armyworm is well established.
Department research scientist Dusty Severtson said while international intelligence indicated fall armyworm could potentially damage cereal, brassica and pulse crops, not a lot was known about the pest’s impact on these crops in Australia.
“Fall armyworm can migrate long distances on winds so it is possible it could emerge anywhere in the Grainbelt this season,” Dr Severtson said.
“Reports from the United States show that while the pest does not prefer cereal crops, it is known to feed on them in the absence of favoured plants such as maize.”
Grain growers and agronomists are encouraged to remain vigilant and monitor crops regularly throughout the season and to report any suspected fall armyworm to the department to assist surveillance and potential management options.
DPIRD’s extensive pheromone trapping network in the grainbelt will be reestablished as crops emerge.
Dr Severtson said that as only two moths had been detected in the grainbelt, there was no cause for alarm.
“While the pest has not become established in the Grainbelt to date, it’s important for growers to continue to monitor crops for caterpillars and signs of damage as the season progresses.”
“Identifying fall armyworm visually can be challenging so it is best to send a sample or a photograph to DPIRD for our scientists to confirm identification and inform appropriate pest management decisions.”
Treatments are available to control fall armyworm, although the potential for resistance is high.