Fall Armyworm Tests China’s Determination to Cut Back on Pesticides
The desert locust swarms that started in East Africa this February have spread to the Middle East and South Asia – and may reach East Asia, writes Wang Chen at Chinadialogue.net. But despite Chinese concerns about a plague of locusts, the government said in early March that the real threat is a reappearance of the larvae of the fall armyworm moth. First seen in China in 2019, this insect breeds faster than locusts and is now well-established in the country, appearing in large numbers in the south and south-west.
The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) has been issuing directives and alerts on controlling the pest since early February, and has published a list of eight chemical insecticides, six biological insecticides, and 14 composite preparations recommended for emergency use. Shares in manufacturers expected to benefit rose quickly, and one securities firm predicted increased demand for substances used to combat the fall armyworm – primarily chemical insecticides.
But the MOA’s list is for emergency use only. China has been cutting down on pesticides since 2015 and has achieved sustained drops in annual usage. The government does not plan to relax strict environmental standards to deal with the armyworm. Zhu Enlin, deputy head of the MOA’s Department of Crop Production, said during a press conference last September that biological pest control methods would be deployed first, and only later would “low-toxicity preparations” and “optimized application methods” of chemical pesticides be used.