Taiwan warns against threat of fall armyworm

2019/06/10 23:17:41 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Photo courtesy of Miaoli County Department of Agriculture

Photo courtesy of Miaoli County Department of Agriculture

Taipei, June 10 (CNA) The Council of Agriculture (COA) warned Monday of the potential damage that could be caused by crop-destroying fall armyworm, stressing that it is critical to wipe out the harmful insect across Taiwan in the coming two or three weeks.

"It is imperative to stem out all fall armyworms throughout the country, because it could create much more trouble than avian flu," COA Deputy Minister Huang Chin-cheng (黃金城) said at a news conference.

The arrival of fall armyworms could reduce the yield of wheat, corn, sorghum and rice crops by 20-30 percent and affect 45 percent of the cultivation of those crops, said Feng Hai-tung (馮海東), head of the COA's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine.

As part of government efforts to terminate fall armyworms, 500 traps using pheromones -- chemical substances produced by an animal that affect the behavior of others of its species -- have been installed across the country, he said.

Given that an appropriate use of pesticides can help farmers eliminate fall armyworms, which are in fact caterpillars, the COA has recommended 11 specific pesticides, including Neem oil and Bacillus thuningiensis, on its website to achieve the goal, Feng said.

The COA issued the warning after a harmful species of Lepidoptera found on a farm in Miaoli County on Saturday was confirmed as the fall armyworm on Monday -- the first such case in Taiwan.

Later Monday, the COA's Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute reported that the highly destructive insect seemed to have also appeared in Yilan and Chiayi counties, verification of which will be made public Tuesday.

On May 13, the COA held a news conference warning about the possible arrival of the fall armyworm in Taiwan.

If the insect arrives in large numbers, sweet corn and rice fields on Taiwan proper and sorghum and wheat fields in Kinmen are vulnerable, and could potentially result in an annual loss of up to NT$3.5 billion (US$111.46 million), according to the COA .

Since 2016, the fall armyworm has spread from America to Africa, and from Africa to Asia, including Southeast Asia and India in 2017-2018 and China in 2019.

According to Chiang Ming-yao (江明耀), a researcher at the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute, the latest information shows that 18 provinces in China, including Hainan, Guangxi, Guangdong, Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, have already reported economic losses as a result of the spread of the ravenous caterpillar.

(By Flor Wang and Yang Shu-min)
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