Sunday, July 7, 2013

Army Worm Battle Heats Up in 2013

On July 2, 2013, China's Ministry of Agriculture issued an emergency notice to step up efforts to control the spread of army worms, a caterpillar that affects corn and other crops.

A Jilin Province corn field in September 2012 where army worms 
stripped lower leaves off the stalks. The corn cobs are left intact.

Army worms appear during the hot summer months of July and August and strip the leaves off corn stalks. In 2012, an unusually  large infestation attacked large areas of China's corn crop. The 2013 emergency notice warned that many areas of northeast and north China and the Huang-Huai region have a high risk of infestation by second- and third-generation army worms. The notice warned that army worms tend to migrate as a group and an infestation can develop rapidly. Local officials were told to watch migratory patterns and to be on the lookout for hidden or unexpected army worm risks. Officials were urged to do a good job on weekly reporting of pest problems and organizing prevention and control teams.

The battle against bugs like army worms in China usually includes swarms of farmers sent out to drench fields with pesticides. The collateral damage that results is implied by the emergency notice which exhorted local officials to "scientifically" use effective, low-toxicity pesticides and to use a "green" mentality in pest control. Apparently, many farmers were poisoned pesticides during the previous year's army worm control campaign. The 2013 emergency notice warns readers to "learn a lesson from last year's farmer poisonings and heat stroke in many areas."

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