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Plant-eating pest invades South China, likely to spread across country: USDA

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Plant-eating pest invades South China, likely to spread across country: USDA

New Delhi — Fall armyworm, a plant-eating pest that was first detected in China in January has spread across China's southern border and is likely to spread across all of the country's grain producing areas within the next 12 months, a report from US Department of Agriculture said this week.

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The pest currently impacts about 8,500 hectares of grain production in Yunnan, Guangxi, Guangdong, Guizhou, Hunan, and Hainan provinces in China, according to the USDA report.

Fall armyworm has no natural predators in China and its presence may result in lower production and crop quality of corn, wheat, soybeans, rice, sorghum, sugarcane, cotton, and peanuts among other cash crops, the report said.

According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the insect prefers corn, but can feed on more than 80 additional species of crops.

China is the second largest producer of corn, after the US and is likely to produce 257.33 million mt of corn in 2018-19, according to USDA's World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates.

The pest can travel up to 100 km per night and in the absence of natural control or good management, it can cause significant damage to crops, according to FAO.

Since 2016, the fall armyworm has caused extensive economic damage across Africa, South Asia, and South East Asia.

Chinese authorities have employed an emergency action plan to monitor and respond to the pest, according to USDA.

-- Shikha Singh, shikha.singh1@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Mriganka Jaipuriyar, newsdesk@spglobal.com