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Pingtung confirms its first crop-devouring caterpillar case

2019/06/15 19:39:03

Pingtung County confirms the first report of the fall armyworm.

Taipei, June 15 (CNA) The first confirmed report of the fall armyworm in Pingtung County was added on Saturday to the official list of those areas confirmed to have the invasive caterpillar species, according to the Council of Agriculture (COA).

The fall armyworm was found on a corn field in Checheng Township, and the plant on which it was discovered was uprooted and buried, said Huang Kuo-jung (黃國榮), the head of Pingtung's Department of Agriculture.

There have been 52 reported cases of the fall armyworm being seen in Taiwan since the first caterpillar sighting was reported in Miaoli County on Monday, the COA said in a statement, amid fears that the pest was spreading around the country, making it harder to control.

According to the COA, the crop-destroying caterpillar has spread to every city and county across Taiwan except for Keelung City and Hsinchu City in the north, Nantou County in central Taiwan, and Chiayi City, and Kaohsiung City in the south.

Emergency measures to control the caterpillar, including burning and burying the affected plants and spraying pesticides in affected areas, have been carried out, the COA said in the statement.

Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Deputy Director-General Chou Hui-chuan (鄒慧娟) told CNA on Saturday that the measures must be carried out within no more than two days after a discovery of the pest is confirmed for them to be effective.

Payment of compensation to affected farmers will be expedited and amount to NT$20 (US$0.63) per square meter of corn, NT$13 per square meter of field corn and NT$6 per square meter of maize green forage, an energy-rich feed for livestock, she said.

To enable early pest detection, Chou said, local authorities are required to install eight traps per hectare using pheromones -- chemical substances produced by an animal that affect the behavior of others of its species -- in affected sites.

A reward of NT$10,000 will also be given to anyone who makes a confirmed report of the pest between June 8 and 21, the COA announced on Friday.

According to the COA, two different types of the fall armyworm have been identified, one that primarily attacks corn and the other that gorges rice crops.

If the pest arrives in large numbers, sweet corn and rice fields on Taiwan proper and sorghum and wheat fields in Kinmen will be particularly vulnerable, with potential annual losses of up to NT$3.5 billion (US$111.46 million), the council estimated.

The alien species might have been brought to Taiwan by recent air currents from southwest of Taiwan, COA deputy chief Chen Junne-jih (陳駿季) said Friday.

With a characteristic upside down yellow "Y" on its snout, the fall armyworm has reportedly caused economic losses in America, Africa and Asia, including in 18 provinces in China, since 2016.

(By Chang Hsiung-feng, Kuo Tze-hsuan and Chung Yu-chen)