Pests 'Strip Crops Bare'

A plague of armyworms descends on northeast China's grain belt.
2012-08-14
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A photo submitted by a farmer surnamed Shen in Jilin's Nong'an county shows her cornfield destroyed by armyworms, Aug. 13, 2012.
RFA

Farmers in the northeastern Chinese province of Jilin have been hit by massive armyworm swarms this summer, with devastating damage to local crops.

The armyworms—a type of moth whose larvae travel in multitudes eating grass and crops—have appeared in Nong'an county, known as the grain belt of northeastern China, in spite of recent efforts to exterminate them, local farmers said this week.

"It's not just a while back; it's still happening now," a farmer in the county surnamed Shen told RFA's Cantonese service. "If you don't believe it, you can come and take a look for yourself."

"There are a great many of the insects."

The dense and highly mobile swarms can cover hundreds of square miles, with each insect able to consume its own weight in fresh food every day.

Swarms are capable of devouring the same amount of food in one day as 2,500 people.

Demolishing crops

Shen said the armyworms had affected local corn farmers very badly.

"Their main [target] is the corn," Shen said. "But the yellow beans and the green bean crops all have armyworms now too."

"They can demolish an entire crop in just one night."

She said stocks of pesticide to kill off the armyworms had run out in her region, however.

"We want to buy pesticide, but we can't get hold of any," she said.

Official help

Asked if government agricultural officials had arrived on the scene to help, she said: "I don't know what sort of help they'd be, but we haven't seen them yet."

An official who answered the phone at the agricultural bureau in nearby Changchun city denied that local government had been slow to respond to the crisis, however.

"All our officials are there now, from the city, the county and village governments," she said. "The technical officials and the administrative officials have gone to direct the farmers in the techniques of exterminating locusts."

She denied recent media reports that local people had died from the effects of the insecticides used to wipe out the swarms.

"No farmers have died because of poisoning from insecticides," she said.

Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.