Demonstration using field collections that Argentina fall armyworm populations exhibit strain-specific host plant preferences.
Spodoptera frugiperda, the fall armyworm, is a major economic pest throughout the Western Hemisphere of corn (maize), cotton, sorghum, and a variety of agricultural grasses and vegetable crops. Studies in the United States, the Caribbean, and Brazil demonstrated the existence of two subpopulations (previously designated "host strains") that differ in their choice of plant host. Specifically, the corn strain is preferentially found in corn and sorghum, while the rice strain is dominant in rice, turf grass, and alfalfa. However, inconsistent results were reported in surveys of fall armyworm in Argentina, with some indicating that the host plant preferences of the two strains might be compromised or even nonexistent. If correct, this would complicate efforts to control this pest by considerably expanding the range of habitats that would have to be considered as potential sources for fall armyworm infestations in specific crops. A reexamination of Argentine fall armyworm, this time with field collections rather than the laboratory colonies used in previous studies, confirmed the existence of the two strains and their host preferences. Specifically, the corn strain was consistently the majority population infesting corn and was usually so in sorghum, while the rice strain was predominant in pasture/turf grasses and alfalfa. The one outlier was a collection from rice, which had a corn strain majority. Overall, the data were generally consistent with strain behaviors observed in other areas of the Western Hemisphere.