BEIJING (B)--China is likely to see more severe damage to its crops from plant diseases and insect pests in 2001 than in 2000, the Ministry of Agriculture said on its web site Feb. 8. A total 353.5 million hectares of crops including wheat, corn and cotton were affected by diseases or pests in 2000, it said.

A recent report by the state meteorological center has forecast a warmer but drier spring in most of China and hereby the agriculture ministry said this would be more favorable for insects such as locusts and bollworm, the website said.

The ministry said diseases or pests would affect an accumulative 46 million hectares of wheat in quite a large part of northern China, it said.

Cotton bollworms are estimated to spread on more than 10 million hectares of cotton, mostly in the Yellow and Yangtze river valleys, the website reported.

An accumulative 75.8 million hectares of rice crops in southern areas and along the Yangtze River reaches are likely to be affected by fairly severe rice diseases or insect pests, the ministry's report said.

Meanwhile, locusts are predicted to again descend on around 100 million hectares of land around the Bohai Sea and in the Yellow River wetlands with a more severe effect than they had in 2000, it added.

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