China finds armyworms in 18 provinces, recommends pesticides for emergency use

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has recommended the use of pesticides to fight against fall armyworms, as the destructive pest spreads across its vast farmlands, the agriculture ministry said on Wednesday.

Fall armyworms have now spread to 18 of China’s provinces, regions and municipalities since it was first detected in the southwestern province of Yunnan in early January, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural affairs said in a statement published on its website.

The fall armyworm “severely threatens the agriculture and grain production security of China,” the ministry said.

China has recommended 25 pesticides for emergency use against the armyworm, and has asked local authorities to guide farmers in the use of these products, including chlorfenapyr and acephate, the statement said.

The emergency use of these pesticides to combat armyworms will last until the end of next year, the ministry said.

Fall armyworms, which feast in large numbers on the leaves and stems of many plant species, including sorghum, corn and sugarcane, can infest and damage hundreds of hectares of crops overnight. The pest was expected to reach the country’s northeastern corn belt by this month or July, according to an expert with a government think tank.

The pest has been found in at least 92,000 hectares of farmland in China, mostly in corn and some sugarcane crops.

China had about 130 million hectares of arable land as of the end of 2017 and grows corn on about 42 million hectares. Sugarcane acreage is seen at 1.24 million hectares for 2018/19.

Reporting by Hallie Gu and Shivani Singh; Editing by Tom Hogue