Serious beetroot pest found in Japan for the first time

TOKYO, Sept. 2 ─ Beet cyst nematode, a serious pest in root crop production, has been found in a farm in northern Japan for the first time, the agriculture ministry says.

The microscopic worms invade the roots of plants and cause swelling in the roots that make it difficult for plants to take in water and nutrients, drastically reducing yields.

It is not harmful for humans to eat infested plants, but the pest causes hundreds of billions of dollars in crop failures worldwide each year, officials say.

The ministry announced Sept. 01 the discovery of beet cyst nematode in farms that grows cabbage, broccoli and other vegetables in Haramura, Nagano prefecture. This was the first detection of the beetroot pest in Japan.

It is not clear how the pest arrived in Nagano.

“It could have attached to imported agricultural equipment,” an official of the agriculture ministry said.

In order to prevent the spread of beet cyst nematode, the ministry immediately put out a call that crops and soil from not be moved from infected fields and said that agriculture equipment and vehicles should be cleaned thoroughly.

The ministry will soon hold a meeting of experts to come up with plans including quarantine and treatment of infected fields.

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