Acción mundial de lucha contra el gusano cogollero del maíz

Global stakeholders chart a response for future invasive pests

Drawing lessons from FAO Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control
13 November 2023

A broad range of stakeholders in the FAO Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control (GA) met in Beijing to mark the fourth year of the GA and extract important lessons to use to improve the global response to future invasive plant pests and diseases.

The Global Symposium for Sustainable Fall Armyworm Management, from 31 October to 2 November 2023, brought national authorities, academia, researchers and scientists, extension professionals, and policy-makers together under the theme “Charting a global response to future invasive pests”. Some 35 speakers addressed over 200 participants from 45 countries.

FAO Deputy Director-General Beth Bechdol highlighted how important work under the GA has helped in strengthening national and farmer capacities.  “We are working to ensure that solutions are delivered where they are needed most: at a global, regional, national, and more importantly, at a farmer-field level.”

This symposium marks a transition point, from an emergency response to the insect pest, to more sustainable management, Bechdol said in her video message.

“We must build on the lessons learned from this Global Action and ultimately share best practices to actively prevent, prepare for, and respond to future biological invasions,” said Bechdol. 

“This Global Symposium provides a platform for global stakeholders to come together and learn from each other while then taking the next step to set up a roadmap for a global response for the sustainable management of invasive plant pests.”

That includes validation and scaling of microbial and botanical biopesticides in some demonstration countries, she said, noting the value of locally occurring natural enemies such as parasitic wasps. Furthermore, over 300 000 farmers, extension workers and researchers have been trained in applying techniques and approaches for pest management, such as the FAMEWs mobile application now being used in 63 countries. 

The symposium was organized by FAO’s Plant Production and Protection Division (NSP) with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), and the National Agro-Tech Extension and Service Centre (NATESC) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA). China is one of eight demonstration countries under the GA, and one that has shown a clear impact from the GA during its implementation.

Population monitoring, forecasting and management through a national integrated pest management (IPM) strategy has been fundamental to FAW control activities in China, said Kongming Wu, President of CAAS.

“Approaches included planting Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) maize, using pheromone and food traps, biopesticides and natural enemies of FAW were deployed as well as chemical management,” he explained.

The GA’s activities have yielded multiple lessons, including insights on strategic and policy responses to an invasive pest, technologies validated and adapted to manage FAW, and training techniques for adopting sustainable management practices, said Xia Jingyuan, Special Advisor to FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu and Executive Secretary of the GA-FAW Secretariat in FAO.

The symposium provided a forum for sharing these lessons with a broad audience, he added. Key lessons for tackling future invasive pests include increased investment in development and scaling-up of innovative solutions (e.g. resistant varieties, biopesticides) including training and policy/regulatory actions, said Mr Xia.  

“It is crucial that we transition from an emphasis on plant protection to plant health management and in this way, we can continue to contribute to One Health,” said Mr Xia.

All of the lessons learned from the Global Action and best practices must be applied to prepare a foundation for responding to future, costly, biological invasions, said Robert Bertram, chair of the global organizing committee of the symposium, and chief scientist with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Damage caused by invasive species is extremely expensive, costing the global economy more than USD 423 billion annually – and these costs have quadrupled every decade since 1970, said Mr Bertram, who is also chair of the Global Action technical committee.

The symposium speakers and participants agreed on a set of calls to action that emphasize prevention and preparedness for emerging and future biological invasions; the vital role of innovation and technology; integration of different approaches; partnerships; communications; and the importance of policy/enabling environments in responding to future invasive pests and diseases. 

The calls to action also urged stronger critical capacities to develop and adopt innovation in surveillance, diagnostics, monitoring, early warning and management of invasive pests, as well as innovation in institutional settings, policy and regulatory instruments, all while keeping smallholder farmers as the key partners in the process.  The calls to action, together with the talks and messages conveyed during the event will be published in a symposium proceeding in early 2024.