GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/14 March) – The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Region 12 has deployed additional crop protection personnel in four palay-producing municipalities in Sultan Kudarat province in a bid to contain the rice black bug infestation in the area.
Amalia Jayag-Datukan, DA-12 regional executive director, said teams from the Regional Crop Protection Center (RCPC) are currently making rounds of several villages in the municipalities of Esperanza, Lutayan, Isulan and Columbio, where the bug infestation was confirmed.
She said the RCPC personnel were assisting local farmers in controlling the spread and the damage caused by the infestation, which already affected the area’s palay production.
“They initially employed some management strategies like the implementation of proper water management and utilization of Metarizhium anisopliae to contain the pest,” Datukan said in a statement.
She described Metarizhium anisopliae as “a fungus that grows naturally in soils throughout the world and causes disease in various insects by acting as a parasitoid.”
Citing an initial assessment made by RCPC-12, Datukan said the four affected towns have so far experienced “slight infestation” of the black bug.
She said the slight damages caused by the infestation were not expected to affect their rice self-sufficiency initiatives in the area this year.
Datukan said the infestation was mainly noted in palay farms within rainfed areas where planting was done in September last year.
In Esperanza town, among the areas that were hit hardest by the infestation were Barangays Salabaca, Guimalia, Daladap, New Panay and Laguinding, she said.
The official said the infestation has already resulted to significantly decreased yields among farmers in the area.
Datukan said that based on the verification made by personnel from the Agricultural Program Coordinating Office in Sultan Kudarat, the possible origins of the bug were traced to the areas that border Esperanza town and the province of Maguindanao.
Aside from the implementation of management strategies, the official said the RCPC conducted light trapping activities in the five affected barangays of Esperanza.
She said the teams have collected a total of 54 bags of bugs out of the activity, which was done to contain the population of the pest.
Datukan said the municipal agriculture of Esperanza has requested for insecticides that would be utilized to spray on the collected bugs.
She said Esperanza and the towns of Lutayan, Isulan and Columbio submitted a request to DA-12 for the establishment of a bio-control laboratory for Metarizhium anisopliae and Trichogramma in their areas.
Trichogrammas are minute polyphagous wasps, commonly known as stingless wasps that are endoparasitoids of insect eggs.
They occur naturally in a variety of habitats across the world and have the ability to parasitize numerous host species.
Datukan reminded local farmers to regularly monitor their farms to avoid incurring huge damages in case infestations like the one caused by black bugs hit their areas.
She urged farmers to immediately report to the regional office any infestation to the agency. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)