BEIJING, CHINA — A plant eating pest that continues to spread across China now impacts 90,000 hectares of grain production in 15 provinces, according to a May 30 Global Agricultural Information Network report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The Fall Armyworm, which can travel up to 100 kilometers in one night, was first detected in China in January, the USDA said.

To date, the pest has predominately damaged corn and sugarcane crops in South China, according to the USDA.

“Since the initial report, China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) has reported that Fall Armyworm has been detected in a total of 15 provinces and municipalities across China, including Henan, Anhui, and Jiangsu provinces, which provide a gateway to the North China Plain, a major crop production region,” the USDA said.

Chinese pest experts forecast that the Fall Armyworm will reach Northeast China’s Corn Belt by June.

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, reportedly has caused corn yield losses ranging from 20% to 50% in Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia.

In March, MARA issued a Fall Armyworm Prevention and Control Technology Plan. 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 the area.

There are currently no pesticides registered to control Fall Armyworm for any crops, the USDA said.

“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.”