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Ongoing project

Identifying potential parasitoids of the fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda, and the risk to Australian horticulture (MT19015)

Key research provider: Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

What’s it all about?

This project was established in early 2021 to examine potential parasitoids of fall armyworm and deliver extension materials to growers on how to effectively manage the pest. The research team will identify parasitoid species present in horticultural crops and provide recommendations on potential candidates for future biological control of fall armyworm, as well as local information on established locations, host range, infestation levels on horticultural crops and damage patterns. 

Fall armyworm was reported in Far North Queensland early in 2020 and quickly spread to several locations in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Establishment of fall armyworm in these production areas has caused major concerns for the sweetcorn and vegetable industries. Within the short period from the detection of fall armyworm, significant crop damage (up to 50 per cent) was recorded in organic and conventional sweetcorn crops in the Bowen and Burdekin areas. Pheromone trapping results from affected production regions indicated that fall armyworm moth numbers were higher from May through August. The rapid rise in numbers has become a major threat to the existing integrated pest management practices adopted by the horticulture industry.

The research aims of this project are to:

  • Conduct a comprehensive literature review on fall armyworm parasitoids and biological control
  • Undertake an economic risk analysis for relevant horticultural crops in Northern Australia
  • Conduct field survey and crop samplings to study FAW host plants and its endemic parasitoids
  • Develop and deliver extension materials to assist growers.

The project team members located in key production areas of Queensland (Bowen, Burdekin and Mareeba), Western Australia (Kununurra and Broome) and Northern Territory (Darwin and Katherine) will conduct regular field surveys and crop samplings to study the host crops and endemic parasitoid fauna associated with fall armyworm.

The project team will then collaborate with locally based extension staff and through VegNet, the vegetable industry extension network also funded through Hort Innovation to deliver extension materials, including a factsheet, a guide for fall armyworm and its parasitoids and predators.

A comprehensive literature review of fall armyworm (FAW) parasitoids was completed to gather information on parasitoid species that are known to attack fall armyworm as well as the host range, presence in Australia, and geographic range.

Data has been collected on FAW host plants via direct field visits to commercial farms, phone enquires and discussion with local agronomists and crops monitors. Amongst the data collected on vegetable crops, the impact on sweetcorn crops was the most severe with losses in cobs ranging between 15 and 70 per cent. Capsicum crop damage was also recorded in Gumlu (QLD) only, with fruit damage recorded up to 20 per cent.

An economic risk analysis of FAW on vegetable crops in Australia was conducted, with results indicating economic losses from fall armyworm to be between $1.3 and $1.7 billion across Northern Australia, with 79 per cent of the losses originating in Queensland.

Field surveys were conducted across Western Australia, Queensland, and Northern Territory to determine parasitoid species residing in the areas.


This project is a multi-industry strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Melon, Nursery, Sweetpotato, Turf and Vegatable Funds.