Country News

New crop pest found in Australia

By Geoff Adams

An exotic pest with the potential to decimate crops overnight has been detected in Australia for the first time.

Authorities last week located six fall armyworm moths on the northern Torres Strait islands of Saibai and Erub.

The pest — which is different to other types of armyworm commonly found in southern Australia — originates from the tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. It has spread rapidly to other parts of the world since 2016.

The larvae is known to eat more than 350 plant species including maize, cotton, rice, sorghum, sugarcane, wheat and vegetable and fruit crops.

Without control measures it can destroy crops overnight when population levels are high.

Adult moths can travel 100 km in one night, meaning it can spread quickly.

The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is working with the Federal Government, and with industry groups and communities, to assess the distribution and threat of the pest, and develop a response strategy.

There is no suggestion it has spread yet to the mainland, however traps will be set in northern and central Queensland as a precaution.

Biosecurity Queensland said it would also work closely with traditional landowners in the region to control the movement of plant and soil between the islands and the mainland, and between Papua New Guinea and the Torres Strait Islands.

Anyone should report signs of the pest to Biosecurity Queensland on 132 523.