Rat infestations hit farms in 4 South Cotabato towns

South Cotabato. Map courtesy of Google

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 12 May) – Destructive rodents have invaded anew farmlands in parts of South Cotabato province amid the worsening dry weather, with four municipalities already reporting crop damages.

Ronald Pacol, focal person for Integrated Pest Management of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAG), said the city and municipal agriculture offices in the province’s 11 localities have reported rat infestations in the past several weeks in various crop production areas.

Among those affected are corn, palay, and coconut farms and areas planted with high-value crops, he said.

“We’re still consolidating the data on the crop damages but all localities have monitored some level of infestation, and the most affected so far are the municipalities of Tboli, Lake Sebu, Surallah and Tantangan,” Pacol said in a media forum on Thursday.

Citing their monitoring for the last five years, he said the rat infestation in the province usually intensifies during summer or dry season, several months after the noted rat breeding season every September.

From 2018 to 2022, Pacol said they recorded around P69 million worth of damage to farm crops due to the rodent infestation.

As intervention, OPAG has launched another round of extensive rat hunting campaign in farming communities, in coordination with the local agriculture offices and the barangays.

Dubbed “Buntot ni Daga, Bugas Mo,” Pacol said they have mobilized farmers and concerned community residents to help hunt down and destroy the rats to reduce their population.

He said farmers will receive a kilo of rice as incentive for every 10 dried rat tails that they can present to the city and municipal agriculture offices.

Pacol said the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office has released some P1 million for the campaign and was used to purchase some 526 sacks of rice.

“We already distributed 115 sacks of rice to the agriculture offices since the start of the campaign last week,” he said.

Pacol said they can also provide rodenticides in the form of zinc phosphide as alternative for rat control but cited that its effectiveness could diminish if not applied properly.

Based on their experience, he said field rats appeared to have become immune from the chemical bait and now even consume them.

“Rats are highly intelligent based on their observed behavior. So the proper way to do it is to feed the rats first for three to four days before mixing them with the chemical to maximize its effect,” he said. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)