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Sichuan Rice Disaster
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Southwest China's Sichuan Province is suffering from its worst rice pest disaster in 16 years. Rice plant hoppers have already attacked 5.2 million mu (about 0.85 million acres) rice fields in 85 counties and county-level cities across the province. Just a hundred rice plants can be home to tens of thousands of these pests. Experts have warned of a province-wide disaster facing rice production if the current situation is not brought under control.

According to experts, the rice plant hopper is a highly prolific pest frequently producing a new generation within just three days and nights. Living on the rice plant's juices, this pest drains the plant of its nutrients leaving it dead.

It is a migrant, traveling from place to place on the air currents. "Rice plant hoppers are not native to Sichuan. They have all come from Guangxi, Yunnan, Guizhou and elsewhere because of changes in the weather," an expert said. "This April, Guangxi saw its worst ever rice plant hopper disaster. Eastern and southern areas of Sichuan had heavy rain in June. This provided an attractive new home for the insects riding the air currents from Guangxi to Sichuan. What's more, the excess rain coupled with moderate temperatures has provided ideal conditions for the hoppers to proliferate, leading to disaster."

Reports from 1991 tell of a devastating blow to Sichuan. Back then hoppers destroyed 7.31 million mu (about 1.20 million acres) of rice causing great economic loss. History is repeating itself 16 years later. If the current disaster cannot be brought under control, it will inflict much greater damage on rice production than its predecessor.

The provincial government of Sichuan is waging war on these pests. It has launched a counter-attack through what is known as a Second-grade Emergency Pest-control Operation. Meanwhile the Provincial Meteorological Bureau has a key role to play for its weather forecasts are crucial in planning the campaign.

But the experts warn it will be no easy task to get rid of the rice plant hoppers once and for all. As a migratory pest, the insects can return on the air currents and thrive when the weather conditions are favorable.

(China.org.cn by Pang Li, August 4, 2007)

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