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More sightings of fall armyworm in Taiwan: COA

2019/06/16 17:33:06

Taipei, June 16 (CNA) More reports of sightings of the fall armyworm, a crop-devouring pest, are coming in from around Taiwan, the Council of Agriculture (COA) said Sunday as it tries to eliminate the insect's presence before it proliferates.

As of 11 a.m. Sunday, a total of 65 sightings of fall armyworm had been reported around Taiwan since the first case was confirmed on June 10, up 13 from a day earlier, officials with a COA task force responsible for tackling the issue said at a news conference.

The sightings, which were all of the larva form of the pest, have been reported in 17 of Taiwan's 22 administrative areas, and the larvae were destroyed and buried in 28 of the cases, the officials said.

Only five administrative areas -- Keelung City, Hsinchu City, Nantou County, Chiayi City and Kaohsiung City -- have yet to report the presence of the fall armyworm, which authorities suspect rode air currents from China or Vietnam into Taiwan.

The officials said measures have been taken to try to eliminate first-generation larvae of the fall armyworm in Taiwan before they can take root in the country's corn and rice fields.

At the same time, 500 traps using pheromones -- chemical substances produced by an animal that affect the behavior of others of its species -- have been installed to detect the presence of mature fall armyworms and help authorities take the necessary steps to fully wipe out the pest, the officials said.

The fall armyworm was first confirmed to have appeared on a farm in Miaoli County on June 10 -- the first such case in Taiwan -- after a visitor to the farm reported it to the local government.

If the fall armyworm arrives in large numbers, sweet corn and rice fields on Taiwan proper and sorghum and wheat fields in Kinmen are particularly vulnerable, with potential annual losses of up to NT$3.5 billion (US$111.46 million), according to the COA.

Since 2016, the crop-devouring pest has reportedly caused economic losses in America, Africa and Asia, including in 18 provinces in China.

(By Flor Wang and Wu Hsin-yun)