SouthCot steps up monitoring of pests with onset of El Niño

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 15 March) – Agriculture personnel in South Cotabato have stepped up their monitoring on the emergence of several crop pests due to the onset of the dry spell triggered by the El Niño phenomenon.

Ma. Luisa Santillana, operations head of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAG), said Friday they are closely watching farm areas with standing crops due to possible pest attacks, especially by rodents or rats.

Citing the province’s experience in the previous years, she said rodents moved from the uplands to the lowland areas as the dry weather worsened.

Santillana specifically cited the long dry spell that hit the area in 2015 and 2016, which damaged millions worth of farm crops due to rodent attacks.

“After they (rats) ran out of food in the uplands, they moved and attacked our lowland farms,” she said in an interview with reporters.

She said there were even reports of rodent attacks in households near farm areas and even in urban communities.

Aside from rodents, Santillana said they are monitoring possible attacks by the rice black bug, which is considered as most harmful during the dry season.

She said they have not yet received any report of infestation but OPAG already issued alerts to the city and municipal agriculture offices in the province regarding the pests and vulnerability of farms to such attacks.

As intervention, Santillana said they have stocked up rodenticides and prepared their technical teams to immediately assist farmers in case of infestations.

She said they may later tap some farmers who had been trained on integrated pest management and related technologies.

“We can later launch rat campaigns in the municipal and barangay levels through food-for-work schemes,” she said.

Santillana said they have also launched awareness campaigns on the possible onslaught of other plant pests and diseases when the dry spell eventually eases.

She said these include attacks by the highly destructive locusts, which usually emerge at the onset of the rainy season. (MindaNews)