China’s agriculture ministry warned in June that it found fall armyworms in 21 provinces, across 333,000 hectares of crops.
Fall armyworms (Spodoptera frugiperda) are a destructive garden pest that can destroy a variety of crops as well as grasses.
Chinese officials are worried about prevention and control measures of the pest might be failing, which could lead to crop losses this year.
Beijing warned fall armyworms could damage hundreds, if not thousands of hectares of crops, leading to possible food security issues for the country.
To counter the pest, China has requested farmers in the 21 provinces to use government-approved pesticides.
The “heart-devouring worm” – as locals call it – has spread almost 1,900 miles north since migrating from neighboring Myanmar earlier this year, now threatens 21 provinces and regions in China and could heavily impact the country’s grain output.
In Yunnan, a province in southwestern China, the pest has already destroyed 86,000 hectares of corn, sugarcane, sorghum, and ginger crops.
Fall armyworm started to spread through Africa and Asia in 2016, these pests, which are moths, fly 60 miles per night, is very challenging for farmers and governments to exterminate.
The pests have strained small farmers, who produce at least 90% of the country’s crop.
In hard-hit Yunnan, the local government has installed 3,500 monitoring sites at farms to observe the pests and agriculture conditions, the provincial agriculture bureau wrote to Reuters via email.
Sugarcane farmer Yan in Mengkang village said the only answer to the fall armyworm disaster is to spray crops with pesticide.
“You have to keep spraying chemicals. If you don’t kill the worm, you will end up penniless,” he said.
Some farmers have had a slow response to act, thus jeopardizing their crop yields during harvest time.
Hu Gao, a professor of insect ecology at Nanjing Agricultural University, said the pests have ruined crops in the country’s south, but the outlook for corn production in the north wasn’t affected as much.