Sunday, April 21, 2024

Study Heralds a New Transformative Solution for the Crop Destroying Fall Armyworm

Oxitec Ltd, the leading developer of biological solutions to control pests that transmit disease, destroy crops and harm livestock, announced the publication of early results heralding a new, transformative crop protection solution for the sustainable management of one of the world’s most devastating crop pests.

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– This technology brings promise of greater sustainability for corn production in Brazil and in other regions where the fall armyworm destroys food crops.

– The fall armyworm is currently estimated to cost farmers more than US$10 billion each year in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

The new peer-reviewed paper, published in the journal BMC Biotechnology, details the development of the Oxitec Friendly™ Fall Armyworm and mathematical modelling showing that future releases of these male moths could provide efficient reduction of populations of the pest and provide a new way of protecting the effectiveness of existing pest management tools, like biotech crops, for the long term.

The fall armyworm is a destructive pest, the feeding caterpillars of which are estimated to cost farmers more than US$10 billion in annual crop damage and losses, particularly on corn (maize). The pest moth is native to the Americas, but in recent years it has crossed oceans to reach Africa, Asia and Australia, presenting a significant new threat to farmers and food security around the world. In Brazil, the fall armyworm has developed resistance to existing crop protection tools, including biotech corn varieties, meaning farmers need to spray more insecticides and their yields are reduced.

The focus of the published research is the world’s first fall armyworm carrying Oxitec’s self-limiting gene. Laboratory studies detailed in the publication show that the moths carrying Oxitec’s technology can compete strongly for mates, which will be important to deliver performance in the field. After releases of Oxitec’s male fall armyworm stop, the introduced gene is self-limiting, declines rapidly and cannot persist. It is designed to leave no footprint in the environment.

Of most significance for the future of sustainable agriculture globally, the paper also describes in-depth mathematical modelling simulating the threat of fall armyworm in corn-producing regions in Brazil, reflecting the current reality in which the pest develops resistance to biotech crops within a few years. When the male moths are deployed, however, the modelling shows that development of biotech corn-resistant fall armyworm is significantly delayed, leading to sustained fall armyworm management over a much longer period. These results demonstrate the immense promise of Oxitec’s fall armyworm to transform the effectiveness and sustainability of critical food crop production, in Brazil and across the world.

Grey Frandsen, Oxitec’s CEO, said, “This study demonstrates the powerful and unique benefits that Oxitec’s Friendly™ technology platform can deliver to advance sustainable agriculture on our rapidly-changing planet. Our Friendly™ Fall Armyworm is being prepared to transform the sustainability of corn production in Brazil and other countries, and to support food security for the long-term. Having spent significant time across Brazil’s agricultural regions, I’ve seen first-hand the threat posed by fall armyworm on Brazilian farms. We now have a solution with the potential to protect existing tools and deliver truly long-term and environmentally friendly protection of corn against this threat.”

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