Worms march to Kununurra

Staff ReportersThe Kimberley Echo
Fall armyworm.
Camera IconFall armyworm. Credit: James Castner/James Castner

An invasive pest has been found in The East Kimberley, following detections in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

The fall armyworm, scientifically known as Spodoptera frugiperda, was found in a Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development surveillance trap in Kununurra as part of the Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy.

DPIRD chief plant biosecurity officer Sonya Broughton said the worm was a threat to the region’s cotton, sorghum, fruit and vegetable crops.

“The department is working with industry stakeholders and other State and Territory jurisdictions to assist industry in preparing for and minimising the impact of this pest as it becomes more broadly established,” she said.

“As well as identifying priority research, development and extension to address knowledge gaps.

“The fall armyworm can cause significant production losses with larvae known to feed on more than 350 plant species, including cotton, maize, rice, sorghum, wheat, fruit and vegetable crops.”

The Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests concluded in February the fall armyworm is not technically feasible to eradicate from Australia.

“Sentinel trapping in WA is being expanded to help provide early advice to industry about presence of the pest in regional areas,” Dr Broughton said.

“We have monitored traps in Kununurra since October last year, with an additional 50 lure traps currently being rolled out across Kununurra, Broome, Carnarvon, Geraldton and Kalumburu.

“We will be offering a webinar conference with Kununurra growers to discuss management options.”

Permits are in place for fall armyworm control in horticulture and grains crops, with more information available from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website.

Fall armyworm is native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. Since 2016 it has rapidly spread to and throughout Africa, the Indian subcontinent, China and Southeast Asia.

More information is available from the DPIRD website agric.wa.gov.au.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails