Fall Armyworm : Invasive Agricultural Pest | UPSC

Fall Armyworm : Invasive Agricultural Pest | UPSC


Fall armyworm bane back in Bihar’s maize-growing eastern districts

      WHY IN NEWS:

More than 2,000 hectares of maize affected by FAW attacks in Madhpeura district alone

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3: Invasive Species


Farmers in Bihar have been hit hard by the fall armyworm (FAW) attacks on their maize crops.


  • The FAW attack has been reported from the state’s eastern districts such as Madhepura, Purnia, Bhagalpur, Saharsa and Khagaria.
  • Madhepura experiences floods every year, as a result of which most farmers have started growing maize instead of paddy.
  • More than 2,000 hectares where maize was cultivated has been affected by the FAW in Madhepura.

FAW feeds on maize because of the presence of cellulose in it 

  • The eastern region of Bihar is popularly known as the ‘maize hub’ where the crop is cultivated in around two lakh hectares of land.


  • The average annual crop production has been around 22 lakh tonnes, but in 2019, around 40 per cent of total maize crops were reportedly destroyed by FAW.

Villagers said small dose of pesticides do not work on FAW 

  • The unrestricted use of highly toxic pesticide resulted in the deaths of crows in 2020.


  • Fall armyworm (FAW), Spodoptera frugiperda, is a dangerous transboundary insect.
  • It has a high potential to spread rapidly due to its natural distribution capacity and opportunities presented by international trade.

Fall Armyworm : Invasive Agricultural Pest | UPSC

Fall Armyworm : Invasive Agricultural Pest | UPSC


  • FAW has spread across all of sub-Saharan Africa, the Near East and Asia.It will likely soon be present in southern Europe.
  • An adult can fly up to a hundred kilometers in a single night.
  • Since its arrival in West Africa at the beginning of 2016, FAW has reached most African countries.

Over the last few years, fall armyworm (FAW) has rapidly spread around Africa, the Near East, Asia and the Pacific

  • It has also spread further to the Near East and to more than a dozen Asian countries, including China, India and Japan, and has been reported in Australia, Mauritania and Timor Leste.


FAW represents a real threat to food security and livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers

  • FAW is a resident pest and once it has arrived in a country, it is there to stay.
  • Farmers need significant support to manage FAW sustainably in their cropping systems through Integrated Pest Management (IPM) activities.
  • FAW cannot be eliminated.
  • In its caterpillar stage, it can cause significant damage to plants unless there is natural control, good agronomic practices or resistant varieties in place.

FAW prefers maize but can also feed on more than 80 other crops, including wheat, sorghum, millet, sugarcane, vegetable crops and cotton 

  • The most direct impact of these losses hits smallholder maize farmers, most of whom rely on the crop to stave off hunger and poverty.


  • Fall armyworm (FAW) is a moth native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas that has now spread globally.

Once established in a country, FAW is not possible to eradicate or control to stop it from spreading 

  • FAO has launched a Global Action for FAW Control as a response to the international threat that FAW is posing for food security and the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers.


Urgent action is required to prevent this pest from threatening the global food security and livelihoods of millions of smallholder families around the world

  • FAO has developed a new three-year Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control to ensure a strong coordinated approach at country, regional and global levels.

The Global Action has three key objectives:

  1. Reduce crop losses due to FAW by 5 percent in all demonstration countries and 10 percent in the pilot countries,
  2. Decrease the risk of further spread and infestation in countries with limited presence of the pest, and
  3. Establish a coordination mechanism at global, regional and national levels.


  • FAO has been working with many partners to identify, validate, and support the use of sustainable pest management practices for FAW.

This includes the Integrated Pest Management programme for smallholders, which provides opportunities and platforms for further innovation to develop knowledge and science-based solutions for the smallholders’ context

Key approaches include:

  • The use of different agronomic practices such as push and pull
  • Development of  host plant resistance varieties
  • Identification of less toxic pesticides and effective bio-pesticides
  • Conservation and augmentation of natural enemies for biological control.
  • Such approaches also include the use of safe, locally-available controls, and strengthened monitoring and surveillance for early detection and research.

      IASbhai WINDUP: 

  • FAO’s new global initiative aims to mobilize USD 500 million over 2020–22 to take radical, direct and coordinated measures to strengthen prevention and sustainable pest control capacities at a global level.
     SOURCES:   DownToEarth | Fall Armyworm : Invasive Agricultural Pest | UPSC



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