War on invasive alien pest

Jun. 10, 2019 10:23:00

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A farmer works in the field at Hongtudi Township of Kunming City, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province, March 23, 2018. [Xinhua]

By Cheng Lu, Yang Jing, He Chunhao, Qin Qing, Yan Yong

Farmers in southwest China's Yunnan Province have a new rivalry with an invasive alien species spodoptera frugiperda, or fall armyworm, which can damage crops.

So far, the crop-eating insects have been found in more than 120 county-level regions in Yunnan, a province bordering Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos, since it was first detected in January, compounding the prospects of corn and rice harvests.

Pest-control teams consisting of government officials, scientists, agricultural technology personnel, and farmers are taking a raft of measures from pesticides to insecticidal lamps to fight the invasion of the armyworms.

Fall armyworms are native to the Americas, but they have been moving eastwards since 2016, sweeping across Africa before arriving in Asia. The pest has wreaked havoc in many countries, leading to a 20-30 percent reduction in corn and sugarcane output in parts of Africa and Asia. Some areas even saw complete crop failures.

It has spread across China's southern and southwestern areas, affecting nearly 1 million hectares of farmland in 14 provincial-level regions including Yunnan, Guangxi, Guizhou and Henan.

"Equal emphasis should be given on the control of both larvae and moths of the pest," said Liu Yongchang from the plant protection station in the city of Pu'er, Yunnan.

"Fall armyworms like to dig into the stems and nibble on the tender shoots," said Hu Minghan, a corn farmer from Jinggu Dai and Yi Autonomous County.

Hu has been busy fighting the insects since January when he planted 40 hectares of corn. Like many others, he did not identify the armyworm at the very beginning, nor did he realize its dangers.

Local authorities have sent out an alert, and manuals compiled by technological staff have been handed out to farmers to help fight the armyworms.

Shen Aidong with the Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said the fall armyworm can be divided into two haplotypes. One mainly feeds on corn, cotton and sorghum, while the other on rice and various forage grasses. They can cause an estimated 20 percent to 72 percent of corn failure.

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Villagers take part in a farming culture festival held to welcome the season of planting rice seedlings, in Yuanyang County of the Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefecture of Honghe, southwest China's Yunnan Province, April 28, 2018. [Xinhua]

In early March, the pests were also found in the city of Kaiyuan, Yunnan, which worried local villager Wei Xianrong. "It will affect our harvests without proper control," Wei said.

His worries have been eased recently as agricultural experts offered visiting services to farmers, guiding them on how to manage the pests.

"Yunnan bore the brunt of this invasive species," Shen said. Since early this year, he has led teams of experts to visit nearly all affected areas in the province, collecting the insects in different stages and analyzing their tolerance and resistance to pesticide.

In late May, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs urged local authorities to take concrete measures to prevent and control fall armyworm.

Efforts are also urged to strengthen education and publicity about the pest, improve basic infrastructure, intensify international cooperation, and establish a long-term mechanism for preventing and controlling the pest.

Thanks to proper pest-control measures, Hu's other crop fields suffered less. "There are always more solutions than problems," he said. (KUNMING 2019-06-08 00:28:05)

Editor: Miao Hong

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