DA sets P150 M to address worsening worm infestation

Published July 12, 2020, 10:00 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The Department of Agriculture (DA) hopes the allotment of an emergency fund worth P150 million could save farms affected by the worsening fall armyworm infestation (FAW).

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said over the weekend that the DA will deploy crop experts to farms affected by the FAW and will procure the needed crop protection chemicals and biocontrol agents to effectively manage, control and contain the disease.

The first case of FAW infestation in the country was reported in corn farms in Piat, Cagayan in June last year.

To date, the infestation has spread to Mindanao and has already infested 8,000 hectares of corn farms in 208 municipalities and 47 provinces.

The larva of FAW feeds on the plant parts of corn, rice, and other crops, damaging them and causing significant loss in yield.

Of the affected areas, the most badly hit areas by FAW are corn farms in Cagayan Valley (4,214 hectares), SOCCSKSARGEN (1,730 hectares), Northern Mindanao (882 hectares); and Zamboanga Peninsula (665 hectares).

DA Corn Program Director Lorenzo Caranguian said the pest could be eradicated using a combination of crop protection chemicals, bio-control agents, and timely integrated pest management (IPM) practices.

DA had so far provided farmers 63,017 packs of Pheromone lures, 86,983 liters of pesticides, biological control agents such as Trichogramma chilonis to control FAW eggs and earwigs and Metharhizium species against FAW larva. 

The agency is also currently conducting farmers’ seminars on IPM, pest control techniques, and good agricultural practices (GAP).  To sustain the campaign against FAW, Dar created an inter-agency national FAW task force. Members include other government agencies, namely Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR); Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG); local government units (LGUs); Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA); Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO); Bureau of Customs (BOC); Philippine Ports Authority (PPA); State Universities and Colleges (SUCs); farmers’ groups; and private institutions and NGOs.

The task force will lead the implementation of strategies and measures to effectively control FAW infestation through strict quarantine inspection, disinfestation of ports, cultural management practices, distribution and use of pesticides and biological control agents, and strategic information dissemination.

“Now, more than ever, we will proactively act on all threats to our food security, be they natural or man-made. The DA is prepared to assist our farmers and fishers in all aspects to protect their crops, sustain their yield and increase their incomes,” Dar said.