BEIJING, CHINA — A plant-eating pest has spread across China’s southern border and is expected to spread across all of the country’s grain-producing area in the coming months, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The Fall Armyworm, which can travel up to 100 kilometers per night, currently impacts about 8,500 hectares of grain production in Yunnan, Guangxi, Guangdong, Guizhou, Hunan and Hainan provinces, the USDA said.
“Officially, Chinese authorities have employed an emergency action plan to monitor and respond to the pest,” the USDA said. “The Fall Armyworm has no natural predators in China and its presence may result in lower production and crop quality of corn, rice, wheat, sorghum, sugarcane, cotton, soybeans and peanuts, among other cash crops.”
The plan recommends the adoption of prevention control measures on more than 90% of the affected area and environmentally friendly technical measures, such as crop rotation, across more than 30% of that area. The USDA said to mitigate the Fall Armyworm threat, Chinese producers mainly rely on chemicals, biological controls such as fungi or bacteria, or crop management practices such as crop rotation. There are currently no pesticides registered to control Fall Armyworm for any crops.
“It is important to note that most farmers in China do not have the financial resources and training needed to effectively manage Fall Armyworm,” the USDA said. “Even if a mitigation program is employed, costly control measures (mainly chemical sprays) will drag producer margins into negative territory for farmers of most crops that could be affected.”
China is the second largest producer of corn after the United States and is forecast to produce 257.3 million tonnes of corn in 2018-19, according to the USDA.
In the past three years, the Fall Armyworm, which is endemic to North America, has caused extensive economic damage across Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia.