There has been a baffling absence of an international alliance to track and respond to the movement of invasive species.
The sun was mid-way up when the car that carried me and a few local agricultural officers pulled up in front of a farmhouse. We got out and walked behind the house. There we found a heavily damaged field of corn. The farmer talked animatedly about a strange ‘hungry worm’. His corn was less than one-month old and he had already sprayed three times, without success.
In my nine years of field work, I’ve never seen a more depressing plot. Almost every corn plant showed damage and had worms. I took out my hand lens and examined a worm. It was just a few centimeters long, with a brownish hue. Suspicion verified: the fall armyworm had invaded Cambodia.
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Buyung Hadi, an Aspen New Voices Fellow, is an Indonesian entomologist working on sustainable rice-based crop production. He is an insect ecologist with deep interests in designing Integrated Pest Management for smallholder farmers. He is currently with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) as representative for Cambodia.