Field-based testing for fall armyworm underway

Since it was first detected in Australia in early 2020, fall armyworm (FAW) has spread across Australia, posing a significant risk to Australia’s thriving $2.6 billion greenlife industry.

To combat this damaging pest, a new levy funded project ‘Field-based testing for fall armyworm’ (MT19014) has begun.

Led by Agriculture Victoria Scientist, Mark Blacket and funded by Hort Innovation, the project aims to increase awareness of in-field testing in regional Australia and help facilitate the rapid identification of FAW across multiple horticultural areas.

The project builds on The Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment’s (DAWE) recently funded development of a rapid molecular test for use infield for early detection and identification of FAW. The project will conduct a gap analysis to determine the best way agronomists in regional areas can access testing, as the traditional FAW lab testing uses LAMP (loop-mediated isothermal amplification) methods which are more accurate but expensive and time consuming.

By trying to set up regional hubs where agronomists could run the tests at the end of the day, FAW test results could be completed more efficiently.

This project seeks to enable improved FAW detection and surveillance, by increasing the horticultural sector’s technology knowledge and competency that will allow the rollout of this technology.

The project aims to do this in the following steps:

  1. In-field validation of the new FAW LAMP evaluation will be conducted across multiple horticultural crops affected by FAW in NE Queensland and Victoria
  2. Levy payer training workshops for the FAW LAMP evaluation being used in-field
  3. Technology gap analysis to identify roadblocks which may hinder deployment of the FAW LAMP evaluation, focusing on current detection methods in regional areas. This analysis will examine alternative platforms for running LAMP evaluations including ease of use, cost effectiveness, sensitivity, and availability.

This short investment will build upon the previously collected research through the provision of a quick and accurate test with standardised protocols for use. This aims to foster national collaboration in monitoring the movement of FAW.

The projects key area of focus will be regional Australia, particularly northern Australia and will run until the end of November 2021.

It is critical that Australia’s greenlife sector is aware of the significant risk that FAW poses and are armed with resources to effectively manage identification early to reduce crop damage and safeguard financial yield.

To find out more on the project, click here.

For further information, please contact Research and Development Manager, Greg Chandler at greg.chandler@horticulture.com.au.

Field-based testing for fall armyworm (MT19014) project is a multi-industry strategic levy investment under the Hort Innovation Melon, Nursery, Sweetpotato, Turf and Vegatable Funds. Its delivery partner is the Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.