Swarms of pests including spiders and aphids have severely damaged more than one million hectares of cotton fields in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, officials have said.

Damage estimated at $85m is believed to have been caused by the pests to the northern part of the region, which includes Bortala Prefecture, Shihezi City and Usu County, vice director of Xinjiang General Station of Plants Protection claimed.

The current situation was made worse by cold air coming from Siberia since late July which further weakened the pest-stricken plant, but the situation in south Xinjiang, which covers two thirds of the total cotton zone in the region, is under control, he said.
"Pest disasters occur every year but I have never seen such a long-lasting and severe problem as this before," said cotton farmer Wen Shulan, who lost 6.7 hectares of cotton fields to the millions of pests.

The cotton industry, the pivotal industry of Xinjiang which is the biggest cotton base in China, accounts for over 60 per cent of the income of farmers from cotton production areas.

The insect infestations are believed to have occurred because pesticides used in the region kill the pests' natural enemies.

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