The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has supplied thousands of pheromone traps to farmers in Bangladesh to support the country in the battle against fall armyworm (FAW).
This invasive pest can cause serious damage to food production. It is capable of attacking more than 80 species of crops – including cultivated rice and maize – resulting in considerable crop losses and hardship for smallholder farmers.
FAW, which has spread in Africa, the Near East, Asia and the Pacific, was first detected in Bangladesh in late 2018. Earlier this year, it had been reported in more than half of the country’s districts. Although FAW cannot be eradicated, it can be controlled.
The pheromone traps detect the presence and build-up of FAW in particular areas. Pheromones are natural compounds that are emitted by female FAW moths to attract male moths for mating. Synthetic compounds that mimic natural FAW pheromones, often referred to as ‘lures’, are placed in the traps to attract and trap male moths. Moths that are caught are then counted. From these numbers, farmers can know if FAW is present in their fields and if there is a need for increased scouting.
FAO, through its project ‘Response to Enhance Technical Capacity for Monitoring and Management of Fall Armyworm in Bangladesh’, distributed 12 500 pheromone traps, 25 000 lures, and 37 500 killing strips to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE). The new equipment was distributed to farmers as they prepare for the forthcoming maize planting season. FAO specialists provided hands-on training to DAE officials in 14 FAW hotspot districts.
The traps are hung from a suspended pole or branch about 1.5 m above the ground in the maize fields. After setting up the traps, DAE officials visit each week to count the moths and send the results to a central database. The DAE takes appropriate control measures based on the level of infestation, helping to minimize crop damage. “Fall armyworm is a threat to global food security and to food security in Bangladesh,” said FAO Representative in Bangladesh, Robert D. Simpson. “The pest has spread quickly in Bangladesh since it was first detected here less than two years ago. Although there is no way to eradicate fall armyworm, it can be managed. These pheromone traps are an important way to monitor and control its spread.”
FAO will provide further support to affected farmers by supplying 2 000 silos to store maize seeds.