Warning for growers after plant pest detected near Gingin

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Gingin horticulture, grain and turfgrass growers need to check for fall armyworm larvae in their crops and monitor for damage, according to the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development. Picture: DPIRD

HORTICULTURE, grain and turfgrass growers need to be aware the pest fall armyworm, which can damage a wide variety of crops, has been detected near Gingin.

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) senior research scientist Helen Spafford said two moths were recently collected in a pheromone trap north of Gingin during a surveillance program run by the department.

Dr Spafford said it was the most southerly detection in Western Australia since the pest was first confirmed in northern parts of Australia earlier this year.

“While no larvae or feeding damage has been found in this area, we encourage horticulture, grain and turfgrass growers to be checking for larvae in their crops and monitor for unusual levels of damage,’’ she said.

“Suspected fall armyworm should be reported to DPIRD to assist with surveillance and potential management options.

“This trap and others further south will continue to be monitored as part of DPIRD’s ongoing surveillance program.”

Fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) larvae predominantly feed on crops and pastures from the Poaceae (grass) family, in particular maize, but also sorghum, forage grasses, turf grasses, cereals and rice.

The pest can also feed on non-grass crops such as cotton, peanuts, vegetables and some fruit crops.

Fall armyworm is known for its ability to disperse and migrate long distances, which enables it to exploit new habitats and expand its range.

Accurately identifying fall armyworm is important in determining management options and other caterpillars already present in the area may look very similar.

Dr Spafford said young fall armyworm larvae were light coloured with a darker head.

“As they develop the body darkens, becoming more brown with white lengthwise stripes,’’ she said.

“They also develop dark spots, the pattern of which is important, with spines.”