The exotic plant pest fall armyworm has been detected for the first time in Australia, in a network of surveillance traps on the northern Torres Strait islands of Saibai and Erub.
Head of Biosecurity at the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Lyn O’Connell, said the caterpillar stage of the fall armyworm, also known as Spodoptera frugiperda, damages many crops across Africa and Asia vital to human food security, such as rice, maize and sorghum.
“Fall armyworm is a serious agricultural pest. The larval or caterpillar stage of the fall armyworm can feed on a wide variety of crops causing large economic loss, and it has the potential to impact on our native and garden plants,” Ms O’Connell said.
“Biosecurity threats to Australia such as fall armyworm are very real—they threaten our industries and they threaten our way of life.
“This is why our biosecurity system is so important—it safeguards Australia from biosecurity risk items that may carry pests or diseases.
“It is critical in preventing, responding to and recovering from pests and diseases that threaten our economy and clean, green reputation.
“Everyone can do their part to protect Australia from biosecurity risks like fall armyworm by being aware of what can and cannot be brought to Australia from overseas or from the Torres Strait region and reporting any unexpected pests, plant matter or soil.
“The Australian Government is working closely with the Queensland Government and with industry groups and communities to respond to this significant threat.
“We are also working closely with our counterparts in Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea to help assess the situation there, and to offer assistance where it may be needed.”
Adult moths of fall armyworm were detected in surveillance traps monitored by the Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy. These traps were set up as part of preparedness activities for early detection as fall armyworm is a strong flyer and has been spreading rapidly through Southeast Asia countries in recent months.