This is a summary of an article published in the Winter 2020 issue of the Oregon Small Farm News. The article was written by Dr. Toshihiko Nishio and translated and edited by Shinji Kawai and Abigail Hunter, OSU Dept. of Horticulture. The article is available as a .pdf by using the link below.

In 1967, an ocean vessel was in the East China Sea conducting standard atmospheric and marine environment monitoring when, all of a sudden…

Tens of thousands of small insects surrounded the vessel, like powdery snowflakes

Dr. T. NiSHio, rice farming system researcher

Little did the ship’s crew know – that experience would help scientists learn more about a very serious pest problem in rice. In fact, rapid invasions of planthoppers is thought to be one of the major causes of historical famines in Japan.

Ryoichi Kishimoto, who worked at a local agricultural research station formed a group to intensively study the planthoppers. They set up light traps, pan traps, and even windsocks to monitor at different locations throughout the region. In 1971, Kishimoto published his theory about long-range migratory patterns of the pest, which ignited international interest.

20 years after the original observation, another researcher from the same experiment station proved that the planthopper’s migration corridor includes a low-level jetstream from southern China to western Japan. This is how they are able to travel such massive distances in just a few days, and why they would’ve been observed by the ocean vessel.

Learn More

  2. Liu, T., Wang, B., Hirose, N. et al. High-resolution modeling of the Kuroshio current power south of Japan. J. Ocean Eng. Mar. Energy 4, 37–55 (2018).
  3. Observations by Japanese Meteorological research vessels are still available today!:
  4. Hu G. et al. Outbreaks of the Brown Planthopper Nilaparvata lugens (Stål) in the Yangtze River Delta: Immigration or Local Reproduction? PLOS ONE 9 (2014).
  5. Chapman, J. W. et al. Long-range seasonal migration in insects: mechanisms, evolutionary drivers and ecological consequences. Ecology Letters 18 pp: 287-302 (2015).