ASEAN Launches Digital Action Plans to Empower Filipino Farmers Against Fall Armyworms – Manila Bulletin
Pests are one of the various factors that farmers need to watch out for to keep their crops safe and healthy. And one pest that many ASEAN countries seek out is the fall armyworm.
Fall Legionaries (Spodoptera frugiperda) is defined by Alison Watson, head of the ASEAN FAW action plan secretariat at Grow Asia, as “a highly invasive species native to the tropics and subtropics of the Americas”.
“It is a serious plant pest that can feed on a variety of host plants, although it prefers corn and sweet corn. It’s extremely fast, with studies in Southeast Asia tracking CLA butterflies over distances of over 1,000 km. The tropical climate in many parts of the Philippines provides ideal conditions for FAW to live year round, ”Watson said.
Its arrival in Southeast Asia was first officially reported in 2019, and it quickly spread throughout the region, even to the Philippines.
According to Minda Flor M. Aquino, head of the Regional Center for Crop Pest Control in Region II, fall armyworms caused 30 percent damage during the last season of conventional maize planting in the Valley of Cagayan.
Due to the reported damage of the Fall Armyworm in the Philippines, this pest is a pest that local farmers need to watch out for to avoid significant crop losses in the future.
Mitigate the FAW attack
“Nothing can replace the keen eye of a farmer. And one of the best ways to manage fall armyworms and reduce crop losses is early detection through regular physical scouting of the field. Farmers should research early and often, up to three times a week at the start of the new season, ”Watson said.
He added that farmers should also look for damage on the leaf called “cool little panes” as the larvae are only a few millimeters in size and are difficult to see. Managing them at a young age before they move to the whorl or corn cob where they are difficult to control is necessary to avoid crop losses.
While the focus is on helping farmers manage Fall Armyworms, Watson also said people need to be aware that farmers face multiple threats to their livelihoods and need solutions. practical, cost-effective and integrated that strengthen their resilience in the face of increasing demands and impacts.
This can be achieved by increasing farmers’ access to efficient, safe and sustainable tools and technologies, combined with strong farmer-centered education and learning activities linked to integrated pest management.
According to Watson, this will not only better equip Filipino farmers to manage FAW, but also other plant pests and diseases, and it will help put in place more resilient farming practices for the future.
But apart from the farmers who maintain their crops closely, ASEAN also has a digital approach to FAW management through the ASEAN FAW action plan.
“Signed by ASEAN Agriculture and Forestry Ministers on October 21, 2020, the ASEAN Fall Armyworm Action Plan sets out a single regionally agreed multi-stakeholder model to assist countries in the Southeast Asia to manage the severe threat of the Fall Armyworm (FAW). A regional approach is needed because no single country can effectively manage this serious and rapid transboundary pest on its own, ”Watson said.
Realization of the action plan
The action plan consists of comprehensive programs to help support smallholder farmers, government and the private sector in the Philippines by disseminating information, knowledge and good practices on how to manage FAW in the region by strengthening the coordination and regional networks.
“This is not a replacement for the strong national and local approaches already initiated by the Philippine government, but it is a complementary initiative,” said the head of the ASEAN FAW action plan secretariat at Grow Asia.
Rather, the action plan focuses on building awareness, capacity and capacity of farmers to better manage FAW through improved biocontrol, resistance management, surveillance and monitoring, drones and digital IPM, and effective farmer communications.
The action plan will partner with stakeholders to organize pilots, activities and demonstrations in Southeast Asian countries to properly disseminate knowledge about FAW from actions in the region.
Watson explained that the action plan has launched several training programs with more than 4,000 people participating in a recent round of biological control where many practitioners from the Philippines are involved.
“Stakeholders in the Philippines can now access advice on a range of biocontrol and integrated pest management skills from over thirty international experts,” he said.
Going forward, the action plan will aim to strengthen research capacity through the establishment of an ASEAN Virtual Bioprotection Research Center that will bring together Filipino researchers with other regional and international experts working on management of plant pests and diseases.
“We will soon be exploring actions to better understand how we can unleash the enormous potential of drones and digital integrated pest management technologies to help small farmers fight FAW,” Watson said.
By empowering Filipino farmers, ASEAN’s action plan will provide them with both the knowledge and technology they need to control the fall armyworm and future pests threatening Philippine agriculture.
For more information visit www.aseanfawaction.org.
Learn more about farming and gardening at agriculture.com.ph.
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