Pesticide misuse triggers pest infestation in Iloilo, Capiz

PNS/ PhilRice — Next time, think caution when applying pesticides.

This is the advice of an expert based at the Central Experiment Station of Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija amidst infestations of brown planthoppers (BPH) reported Thursday last week in Iloilo and Capiz.

“Brown planthoppers are not pests until farmers indiscriminately apply insecticides. What’s alarming is that insecticides make the hoppers stronger as shown by studies conducted in some rice-growing countries in the world,” Gertrudo S. Arida of PhilRice-Crop Protection Division said.

In China, the reported area of BPH infestation increased from about 18 percent in 2001 to about 51 percent in 2007. Experts who investigated the resurgence of BPH as the “world’s worst rice pest” identified the increasing use of chemical insecticides as the cause.

According to Arida, BPH populations are regulated by beneficial organisms such as spiders, coccinilid beetles, mirid bugs, and crickets.

“Nature itself prevents the occurrence of this outbreak as the natural enemies of BPH keep critical population in check. With the chemical applications, however, the beneficial organisms are also killed,” Arida explained.

In a phone interview, rice sufficiency officers (RSOs) assigned in Iloilo and Capiz said farmers in affected areas indiscriminately apply insecticide at the sight of an insect. In an average, they said that farmers spray chemicals at least thrice in a season as early as three days after broadcasting.

In one of the affected areas, an RSO noted that farmers engaged in “spider fight,” in which spiders are pitted against each other on a stick while farmers bet as high as P25,000.

According to Arida, the said hobby destructs healthy farm ecology as it reduces the number of spiders, especially the hunting spider, Lycosa pseudoannulata, which is the most common and effective enemy of BPH.

“When plants are dried up or hopper burned, no amount of pesticides or insecticide can help the plant recover from the damage. This outbreak may just serve as lesson to farmers who indiscriminately apply chemicals,” Arida said.

As of today, Ricardo B. Saltin, Chief of the Regional Crop Protection Center of the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Office-VI, reported that 10 municipalities in Iloilo were affected with severity ranging from 2 to 20 percent while about 4000 ha covering four towns in Capiz posted a severity of 2-10 percent. In Dumalag, Capiz, about 3,800 ha of rice fields were hit.

Already in the vegetative and reproductive stages, affected varieties include NSIC Rc 150, 152, 154, 156, and 158. Iloilo Provincial Agriculturist Ildefonso Toledo, meanwhile, clarified that the “occurrence of planthoppers is not because of rice variety.”

DA-PhilRice is a government-owned and –controlled corporation that aims at developing high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.