A fatal attraction controls the devastating invasive fall armyworm

A fall armyworm larva feeds on corn in a control field in Brazil. Photo by ISCA, Inc.

A recent scientific study found that a proprietary blend of naturally occurring moth attractants, now marketed in Brazil under the brand name Noctovi, is effective for controlling one of the world’s most damaging insect pests, the fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda.

Entomologists from the federal University of Grande Dourados in Brazil found that Noctovi mixed with tiny amounts of a conventional insecticide controlled populations of the fall armyworm, reducing damage to corn crops at all eight test sites in the Mato Grosso do Sul, in the Cerrado agricultural region of Brazil.

Entitled “Toxic Bait as an Alternative Tool in the Management of Spodoptera frugiperda in Second Corn Crops,” the study was published online in the Journal of Agricultural Science, a publication of the Canadian Center of Science and Education.

The control of the fall armyworm was achieved by a technique called attract-and-kill. Noctovi contains a blend of compounds released in nature by plants that are highly attractive to the fall armyworm and other moths, targeting closely related moths of the Noctuid family which includes cutworms, armyworms, and owlet moths. By attracting and inducing the adult moth pests to feed on the formulation, the amount of insecticide necessary for control in the area treated with Noctovi is reduced by more than 90%.

The Noctovi formulation does not attract bees, which are left unharmed.

“Control of FAW (fall armyworm) adult populations would be more efficient if the attracting and killing technique was incorporated in integrated pest management (IPM) programs,” the study said.

ISCA, Inc., an international green agtech company headquartered in Riverside, Calif., developed and manufactures Noctovi for distribution in Brazil by UPL.

“This is another important independent publication confirming what we have observed in the field for years,” said Agenor Mafra-Neto, ISCA’s CEO. “Noctovi is a sustainable solution for the control of moth pests, including the devastating fall armyworm, an invasive species that is rapidly spreading around the globe, exacerbating food insecurity in poor countries, and causing billions of dollars of crops losses to commercial row crop farming.”

In recent years, the fall armyworm has spread from its native range in South America to most counties in Africa, into the Middle East, and then throughout central and east Asia and Australia, with the larvae feeding on corn, soybean, cotton, tomatoes, and other crops. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the losses in Africa alone to be about $4.6 billion a year.

The species has been difficult to control because it has developed resistance to most conventional insecticides and those expressed by genetically modified (GM) crops. In fact, the research in Brazil found Noctovi to be most effective when used in conjunction with GM corn, which expresses the insecticidal proteins of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

Unlike conventional insecticides, Noctovi does not require the entire field to be sprayed. Once mixed with an approved insecticide, a line of Noctovi about 100 meters long will protect about 2.5 acres of crops because the attractants draw in the armyworm moths to feed on the formulation, which kills them.

“The application of [Noctovi] toxic bait in bands with spacing less than or equal to 50 meters significantly reduced the percentage of damage to the plants,” concludes the study by Wagner Justinian, a doctoral candidate, and professors Marcos Gino Fernandes and Josué Raizer of the University of Grande Dourados.

The results were gathered during the 2018-2019 agricultural year. The researchers found that late-life stage non-Bt corn plants treated with Noctovi had about half the caterpillar feeding damage when compared to the plants in control areas that received no treatments. Statistically, Noctovi mixed with the insecticide methomyl applied in bands performed as well as area-wide treatments with the same insecticide. This allowed for the insecticide outputs to be reduced by 90 percent to achieve the same level of fall armyworm control.

ISCA, Inc. is a green agtech company that provides the next generation of insect control products for world agriculture by harnessing the power of pheromones and other semiochemicals emitted in nature by plants and animals that manipulate the behavior of targeted insect species. ISCA’s insect control innovations are environmentally sustainable, cost-effective, and can be applied mechanically by aircraft, drones, and tractors to both row and specialty crops. ISCA is headquartered in Riverside, Calif., USA, and has subsidiaries with offices and manufacturing partnerships and facilities in the United States Brazil and India.

For more information or to set up an interview, please contact ISCA USA Communications Director David Danelski at (951) 850-0143 or ddanelski@ISCA.com.