Streamlining leaf damage rating scales for the fall armyworm on maize.
The fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda, Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), which is native to the Americas, has recently invaded Africa and Asia. There, it has become a major pest of maize (Zea mays). The variety of methods used to assess feeding damage caused by its caterpillars makes it difficult to compare studies. In this paper, we aim at determining which leaf damage rating scales for fall armyworm are most consistently used for which purposes, might provide most possibilities for statistical analyses, and would be an acceptable compromise between detail and workload. We first conducted a literature review and then validated the most common scales under field and laboratory conditions. Common leaf damage scales are the nominal "yes-no damage scale" that only assesses damage incidence, as well as difficult-to-analyse ordinal scales which combine incidence and severity information such as the "Simple 1 to 5 whole plant damage scale", "Davis' 0 to 9 whorl & furl damage scale", or "Williams' 0 to 9 whole plant damage scale". These scales have been adapted many times, are sometimes used incorrectly, or were wrongly cited. We therefore propose simplifications of some of these scales as well as a novel "0.0 to 4.0 fall armyworm leaf damage index" which improves precision and possibilities for parametric data analyses. We argue that the choice of a scale to use should depend on the desired level of detail, type of data analyses envisioned, and manageable time investment.