Taiwanese authorities have confirmed a potential threat to domestic crops as they have identified the fall armyworm in Miaoli County.
This is the first instance that the insect has been found in Taiwan. It has reportedly been spreading in 18 provinces China and has also been found in Sri Lanka this year. Authorities discovered it at Flying Cow Ranch (飛牛牧場) on Saturday, Liberty Times reported. The inspection team from the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine at the ranch sent samples to be tested and the fall armyworm was confirmed on Monday.
Authorities will begin extermination and prevention procedures to ensure crop safety and inhibit the spread of the invasive insects. The area in which the fall armyworm was found is used for crops to feed cattle. The immediate area was destroyed on Monday afternoon in attempt to contain the situation. The Flying Cow Ranch will be compensated NT$3,000 (US$95.50) for the losses.
Authorities noted that the Flying Cow Ranch had not imported any products, so their crops and seeds are entirely domestic. No adult moths were found in the region, and authorities believe that the fall armyworms were carried over to Taiwan from China via cross-strait jet streams, which can carry the insects over 200 km per day.
There are two other sites being inspected as well in Chiayi and Yilan counties, according to Apple Daily. Tests from the sites have not yet been confirmed but are expected by Wednesday.
The fall armyworm (spodoptera frugiperda) is an invasive species of insect that can severely damage crops, particularly corn, cotton, rice, and sorghum. As larvae, they are in the most destructive life stage, making it imperative to contain the species quickly. During this stage, the insects consume large quantities of food and can devastate entire crops before farmers notice.
Authorities noted that two types of worms were found in the area. They will continue to monitor the immediate area, and if the fall armyworms don’t return in three months, the destroyed plot of land can resume cultivation. The Council of Agriculture (COA) has instructed farms to use 11 types of pesticides to prevent the spread of the insects and protect crops. If not contained, the COA estimates that an infestation could cost Taiwan up to NT$3.5 billion per year in agricultural losses per year.
The first recorded case of fall armyworms destroying crops was in the US state of Georgia in the late 18th century.