The Department of Agriculture (DA) is now pushing for the use of biological control agents against rice black bug and armyworm infesting some areas in Mindanao.
According to the DA’s Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), a fungus called Metharizium can be used to control the rice black bug (RBB) while the Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus (NPV) can be used against armyworms.
The fungus is entomopatho-genic or causes disease to the insects to disable or kill them. The NPV, on the other hand, is a virus that destroys the cellular structure of armyworms until it can no longer maintain life.
Farmers have noticed that the RBB and armyworms—present in the whole country except in the Cordilleras—attack in swarms during specific times of the year.
The government agency explained that the RBB are actually present in the farms year-round but they are very much attracted to light such that three to five days before and after a full moon, they become very active and congregate.
According to the Bureau, the recent RBB incident during the Palarong Pambansa happened during a full moon. Combined with the brightness of the sport arena’s floodlights, the RBB population in nearby rice fields congregated into large swarms.
The BPI, in coordination with the DA Regional Crop Protection Centers, has been mass-producing Metharizium as a safer control agent against RBB. Metharizium has been tested to be effective when regularly applied in RBB-infested rice fields. The biopesticide is now distributed to farmers throughout the country.
For armyworms, the BPI said sanitation is the first strategy to avoid the pest, followed by synchronous planting. After harvest, all stubbles or straws in infested areas must be plowed under the ground to kill the remaining population of the pests. Lastly, on the onset of attack, spraying of NPV would be needed to kill the feeding worms.
The bureau is also advising farmers who have problems on RBB to practice intermittent irrigation and herding ducks on paddies.
DA Secretary Proceso Alcala called on farmers to promptly report infestations to their local agriculturists or to Regional Crop Protection Centers so that appropriate measures for effective pest management or eradication can be immediately implemented, hence reducing yield losses.