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Potential impact of fall armyworm on vegetables

Fall armyworm has a preference for maize, sweet corn, sorghum, rice and grass crops. Under high pest pressure, broadleaf vegetable crops can also be infested, and may be damaged.

Sweet corn is a preferred host of fall armyworm with a high risk of significant crop losses. Fall armyworm can infest vegetable crops including capsicum, chilli, tomato, pumpkins, cucumber, beans, eggplant and other vegetables. The potential for damage to these crops in Australian farming systems is unclear.

Overseas, fall armyworm has rapidly developed pesticide resistance where subjected to repeated and prolonged use of insecticides.

What to look for

Look for small larvae and leaf damage such as windowing, tattered leaf margins, skeletisation, defoliation, and chewing damage to flowers and fruits. Fall armyworm damage may be confused with damage caused by other pests. Correct identification is vital to determining the risk and response.

How to manage an outbreak

Early detection is essential. Regularly check your crops for insect activity and damage. Pheromone traps may assist in detecting local fall armyworm activity.

An integrated pest management approach is the key to the control of any pest. We are working with industry to identify strategies and tactics for the medium to long-term response.

Some insecticides used for the control of Helicoverpa armigera, other armyworms and caterpillar pests may provide some level of control of fall armyworm. Biocontrol agents released for Helicoverpa are also expected to have an impact on fall armyworm.

For any pesticide use for fall armyworm control, you must consider the implications for chemical resistance development in other pests that may be exposed (e.g. Helicoverpa, aphids, silverleaf whitefly, mites), and the potential impact on natural enemies.

The Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicine Authority (APVMA) is currently assessing, as a priority, permit applications for the use of chemicals against fall armyworm. To check for the latest chemical permits applying to fall armyworm, use the APVMAs permit portal—search for 'fall armyworm' and tick the 'pest/purpose' option.

You should already have strong on-farm biosecurity measures to protect your crops from pest and diseases and should implement good farm hygiene for weed control to remove hosts that could build populations.

Be on the lookout and if you suspect fall armyworm, report it immediately by phoning 13 25 23.

Further information

Read the vegetable fall armyworm fact sheet.