Agro-ecological options for fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda JE Smith) management: providing low-cost, smallholder friendly solutions to an invasive pest
Harrison, Rhett D.
Van den Berg, Johnnie
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Fall armyworm (FAW), a voracious agricultural pest native to North and South America, was first detected on the African continent in 2016 and has subsequently spread throughout the continent and across Asia. It has been predicted that FAW could cause up to $US13 billion per annum in crop losses throughout sub-Saharan Africa, thereby threatening the livelihoods of millions of poor farmers. In their haste to respond to FAW governments may promote indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides which, aside from human health and environmental risks, could undermine smallholder pest management strategies that depend to a large degree on natural enemies. Agro-ecological approaches offer culturally appropriate low-cost pest control strategies that can be readily integrated into existing efforts to improve smallholder incomes and resilience through sustainable intensification. Such approaches should therefore be promoted as a core component of integrated pest management (IPM) programmes for FAW in combination with crop breeding for pest resistance, classical biological control and selective use of safe pesticides. Nonetheless, the suitability of agro-ecological measures for reducing FAW densities and impact need to be carefully assessed across varied environmental and socio-economic conditions before they can be proposed for wide-scale implementation. To support this process, we review evidence for the efficacy of potential agro-ecological measures for controlling FAW and other pests, consider the associated risks, and draw attention to critical knowledge gaps. The evidence indicates that several measures can be adopted immediately. These include (i) sustainable soil fertility management, especially measures that maintain or restore soil organic carbon; (ii) intercropping with appropriately selected companion plants; and (iii) diversifying the farm environment through management of (semi)natural habitats at multiple spatial scales. Nevertheless, we recommend embedding trials into upscaling programmes so that the costs and benefits of these interventions may be determined across the diverse biophysical and socio-economic contexts that are found in the invaded range