Comparative screening of Mexican, Rwandan and commercial entomopathogenic nematodes to be used against invasive fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda.
The fall armyworm (FAW), Spodoptera frugiperda Smith (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) is an important pest of maize originating from the Americas. It recently invaded Africa and Asia, where it causes severe yield losses to maize. To fight this pest, tremendous quantities of synthetic insecticides are being used. As a safe and sustainable alternative, we explore the possibility to control FAW with entomopathogenic nematodes (EPN). We tested in the laboratory whether local EPNs, isolated in the invasive range of FAW, are as effective as EPNs from FAW native range or as commercially available EPNs. This work compared the virulence, killing speed and propagation capability of low doses of forty EPN strains, representing twelve species, after placing them with second-, third- and sixth-instar caterpillars as well as pupae. EPN isolated in the invasive range of FAW (Rwanda) were found to be as effective as commercial and EPNs from the native range of FAW (Mexico) at killing FAW caterpillars. In particular, the Rwandan Steinernema carpocapsae strain RW14-G-R3a-2 caused rapid 100% mortality of second- and third-instar and close to 75% of sixth-instar FAW caterpillars. EPN strains and concentrations used in this study were not effective in killing FAW pupae. Virulence varied greatly among EPN strains, underlining the importance of thorough EPN screenings. These findings will facilitate the development of local EPN-based biological control products for sustainable and environmentally friendly control of FAW in East Africa and beyond.