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July 9th, 2019 / The Conversation, UK

A very hungry caterpillar is rampaging through crops across the world, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. The fall armyworm, also known as Spodoptera frugiperda (fruit destroyer), loves to eat maize (corn) but also plagues many other crops vital to human food security, such as rice and sorghum.

This invasive eating machine originated in the Americas, where it was first described in 1797, but in the last few years it has gone global. It was reported in Africa in 2016 and has now reached China, spreading across two continents, west to east, in just three years. Entry of the pest into this part of Asia matters because so many people live there and in nearby regions, and there is already huge pressure on the area’s food production systems.

But there is hope. My colleagues and I are researching ways to stop the pest that don’t rely on damaging pesticides and could be adopted around the world. Read more …