DA-Davao warns vs invasive pest from South America

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 14 October) –The Department of Agriculture (DA)-Davao Region has expressed fears a species of a pest attacking some tropical and subtropical parts of South America and Asia have reached the Davao region after agriculturists recovered some larvae resembling that of a Fall Armyworm ((Spodoptera frugiperda) in Baguio District, Davao City, and Malalag in Davao del Sur.

Marilou Infante, chief of the Regional Crop Protection Center of the DA-Davao Region told the Kapehan sa Dabaw on Monday that they immediately transported samples to the Bureau of Plant and Industry for confirmatory tests.

Although results of the tests are have yet to be released this week, Infante said the physical appearance, especially the markings found on the larvae recovered from those two areas are 95% similar to the larvae of the Fall Armyworm (FAW), among them light-colored band on the lower lateral, pale dorsal line, darker lateral band, smaller spots arranged in trapezoid pattern in most dorsal segment, large spots on the second last segment, head color varies from orange, brown or black.

Information on the Fall Armyworm from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s website, http://www.fao.org/fall-armyworm/en/

Infante said shipping vessels likely brought FAW, an alien pest from South America, to Davao.

A briefer released by DA-Davao said the FAW is a pest that can feed on more than 80 crop species and may cause significant yield reduction on major cultivated cereals such as maize, rice, sorghum, and also to legumes, vegetables crops and cotton.

Infante urged farmers to report any sighting of the FAW to the DA-Davao so that they can take the necessary measures to prevent a full-blown infestation on cash crops as the pest is considered as a “strong migratory flyer” that can fly across 100 kilometers to neighboring areas.

She said the presence of FAW poses threats to the food security in Mindanao as the female pest, which can live for 10 days up to 21 days, can lay around 50 to 200 eggs. According to her, the FAW larvae enter the pupa stage after 14 to 22 days and hatch into an adult insect after eight to 30 days.

She said the initial sightings were observed in corn plantations of Baguio District in Davao City and Malalag municipality in Davao del Sur. The DA immediately distributed “green label” pesticides to farmers to mitigate the possible spread to other parts. It also planned to use biological control agents to prevent the infestation.

“We have industries that rely on corn production since we have to support our hog and poultry, our corn should not be compromised,” she said.

She said the initial steps taken by the agency included a blanket spraying to ensure the areas where the larva had been found are sufficiently covered.

She said it is necessary to prevent its spread as the hog and poultry industries would heavily suffer as they dependent on corn for feed production.

On May 9, 2019, George Culaste, OIC Director of the Bureau of Plant Industry issued a memorandum on “Pest Advisory on Fall Armyworm” to all Regional Executive Directors in the country, BPI Center Chiefs, the National Plant Quarantine Services Division, the National Seed Quality Control Services Division Crop Research and Production Support Division.

Culaste said that in view of the “continuous and rapid spread” of FAW “in our neighboring countries and since the Philippine climatic condition is conducive to the preference of the devastating pest, you are hereby advise to alert your staff to engage in pest surveillance.”

“You are also advise to closely monitor the pest by conducting detection survey in your respected regions to determine its presence for immediate management,” Culaste said.

Attached to the memorandum were “pertinent information and possible management strategies for your information and immediate action.” (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)