By REY M. NASOL
LEGAZPI CITY — Rice Black bugs, scientifically known as scotinopara coartata, attacked rice farms in the third district of Albay with one out of four affected towns already severely devastated prompting the Provincial Agriculture Office here to sound the alarm bells.
The bugs threaten to devastate all the 15,582 hectares of rice plantations in the north western part of Albay province.
Albay Provincial Agriculture Services (PAS) officer Ruben Limos told Bikol Reporter that in their initial report, some 20 barangays have been severely affected, which may spread to nearby areas because of the full moon.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said last week that there are about 609 hectares of maturing palay that have already been confirmed affected by the pests. “I immediately instructed Provincial Agriculture Services officer Limos to conduct an investigation to save the farms if possible and eradicate the pests, which is increasingly threatening even the surrounding farms due to the presence of strong moonlight,”
In an interview, Limos said that the rice black bug is fast affecting the rice farms during the night especially when it is illuminated by the moon. “They also travel during the night following beam lights of trucks, the lightings of seacrafts and the moon that is why they have reached us here although these pests came from the southern provinces of the Philippines.”
Salceda also said: “It’s the first major incident of that magnitude in my 49 year residence in Polangui. All signs lead to El Nino and Climate Change as culprit. The PAS has been focusing on Oas and Polangui. We have asked the regional field office of the Department of Agriculture for help and Cedric Daep of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) is now on standby for emergency action.”
Limos, on the other hand, said he would recommend declaration of a state of calamity in the affected towns depending on the extent of damages to the other areas under investigation.
As of Wednesday last week, the pest already covered 20 barangays in Oas, Albay alone. Control measures had already been recommended which included light trapping, spraying of organic pesticide and flooding to destroy the pests’ eggs.
Limos blamed the late planting of some areas in the third district towns of Albay which completed the life cycle of rice black bugs. “Dapat synchronous planting ang i-practice nila at hindi mag practice ng late planting dahil yan ang nangyayari, nagkakaroon ng complete and continuous cycle ang peste. Kumbaga hindi napuputol ang life cycle ng pest,” Limos explained.
Rice black bugs sip the nutrients in rice stalks and render its leaves yellowish until the plant dries up and dies.
Limos said the province has already requested the DA regional office in Camarines Sur to provide them with Metherhizuim, an effective fungi-based insecticide to fight the rice black bugs.
Salceda alerted all the other municipal and city agriculture officers throughout the province to be on guard against the infestation to avert the situation. He also gave assurance that the situation is being addressed as quickly as possible.