Southwestern Mindanao warned vs. new rice pest

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/08 February)—Agriculture officials have warned against the possible infestation of rice fields by a new pest in Southwestern Mindanao, one of the country’s major rice producers.

Amalia Datukan, Department of Agriculture-Region 12 director, said the Regional Crop Protection Center (RSPC) based in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat appraised this week the regional office of the rice grain or seed bug that already infested other regions.

“The occurrence of this pest was one of the problems raised during a national forum held in Manila recently,” she said, noting the pest has infested Bicol Region, Western Visayas, Central Visayas and Eastern Visayas.

In Mindanao, Datukan said the regions affected by the pest are the Zamboanga Peninsula and Caraga, which is composed of the provinces of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.

The newest rice pest was presented in the Bureau of Plant Industry’swor kshop establishing the operations of community-based biological control agents and the Bantay Peste Brigade.

Ludivina Dumaya, RCPC officer-in-charge, said that rice grain or seed bug is smaller than a rice bug.

“It moves quickly and easily in water and is a crawling type of pest,” she said.

Dumaya said the pest has a similarity to the rice bug (Leptocoriza oryzae), commonly called tiangaw, which feeds on rice grains.

The difference of the seed bug with the rice bug is that it has the ability to fall off to the ground when touched or disturbed, she said.

For his part, Dave Nicolas, South Cotabato Provincial Integrated Pest Management (IPM) coordinator, urged farmers to closely monitor their farms for the detection of the new pest.

“Let us not put our guard down so we can prevent these pests from devastating our palay farms,” he said.

As part of preventive measures, Dumaya said the RCPC will conduct a massive information campaign and intensive coordination with integrated pest management controllers across the region.

The RCPC will also ask the help of municipal agriculture officers to help in the information dissemination as well as mobilize the Bantay Peste Brigade for field monitoring, she said.

Southwestern Mindanao, also known as SOCCSKSARGEN Region, covers the provinces of South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

It is one of the top rice producing areas in the country, contributing almost 7% to the national rice production and about 31% to the total rice production in Mindanao, according to DA-12. (Bong