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Indonesia prepares for battle with fall armyworm

17 July 2019 Indonesia

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has alerted Indonesia to the migration of the fall armyworm. (Courtesy of FAO/-)The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has alerted Indonesia to the migration of the fall armyworm. (Courtesy of FAO/-)

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has alerted Indonesia to the migration of the fall armyworm.

In a release made available to The Jakarta Post, the FAO describes the fall armyworm as an insect pest that could “infest and damage or destroy fields of corn and other crops, literally overnight.”

According to the FAO, the fall armyworm originates in the Americas and has migrated eastward across Africa to Asia. The insect had landfall for the first time in Asia in mid-2018 and in January in India. Since then, it has spread to Bangladesh, China, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and finally Indonesia.

The FAO detected the insect in West Sumatra in March, and within four months, the pest has spread to 12 provinces in Sumatra, Java and parts of Kalimantan.

The FAO is now monitoring its movement to prevent crop damage and is urging all provinces to beware of the aggressive pest. In Sri Lanka, the pest has infested 40,000 hectares of land and damaged 20 percent of the crops. It has caused estimated economic damage of US$1-3 billion in Africa.

To prevent similar damage to Indonesia’s agriculture, the FAO will cooperate with the government and experts who have tackled the pest in Africa and Latin America.

“The government will be co-organizing a national workshop with the FAO at the end of July to agree on the most effective action to respond to this attack. We will take up the lessons learned from other countries that have already been responding to their own infestations," said Stephen Rudgard, the FAO representative in Indonesia.

Meanwhile, the Directorate of Plant Protection at the Agriculture Ministry has urged all provinces to be vigilant over the fall armyworm.

“We are closely monitoring the movement of the fall armyworm in Indonesia. Our extension workers have worked in the fields to advise farmers on how to protect crops and reduce the damage caused by this attack. We anticipate that the fall armyworm attack is going to infest corn fields right across Indonesia in the coming months,” plant protection director Edy Purnawan said.

Amid the risk of the pest infesting the country, Indonesia was also a habitat of the fall armyworm’s natural enemies, the release said. The FAO is considering to maximize the use of natural predators of the species rather than chemical pesticides to limit damage to the soil and farmers’ health.

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