XAG, a Chinese drone manufacturer based in Guangzhou, teamed up with German company Bayer Crop Science to deploy a drone attack to kill the fall armyworms infesting crops in China’s Guangxi province.
The operation was reported to have killed 98% of the armyworms, nearly eradicating the pest and marking a major step in the use of drone technology to enhance agricultural productivity, following a similarly successful effort in Yunnan province in July of this year.
The fall armyworm, originating in the Americas, has spread globally to portions of Asia and Africa, wreaking havoc on crops such as rice, corn, vegetables, cotton and more. In Africa alone, the annual yield loss of the 12 maize-producing countries due to armyworm’s devastation was estimated at $4.6 billion in 2018. Since its arrival in China, the pest has affected 950,000 hectares of crops across 24 provinces as of mid-August, including regions of Hebei, Shaanxi and Shandong, according to an official report published late last month.
“It is the ‘crop-devouring monster’ that attacks over 80 crop varieties,” said XAG in a statement on the armyworm’s effect. The company went on to explain how traditional insecticide methods lack the agility required to effectively kill the pests which can cover up to 100km in one night, and lay 1,000 eggs in its lifetime.
The XAG drone dispersion method occurs at night, when the pests are likely to be feeding, thus increasing the kill rate even further. In addition, the drones’ precision spraying system conserves resources much better than the traditional methods, using 30% less pesticides, and 90% less agricultural water.