The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), the Regional Crop Protection Center (RCPC), Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA), and the Department of Agriculture- Regional Field Office III (DA-RFO III) are intensifying pests field control this wet season through the Oplan Iwas Peste: Ang madiskarteng magsasaka, mataas ang ani at kita recently launched in Nueva Ecija.
Leonardo Marquez, crop protection expert at PhilRice, said the campaign aims to educate farmers on preventing pest infestations through simplified steps. The recommended practices include synchronous planting, use of resistant rice varieties, conserving beneficial insects, judicious use of insecticides, and proper application of fertilizers.
The senior science research specialist said that managing pests and diseases starts with synchronous planting, which according to Marquez, breaks the pests’ life cycle as it inhibits their continuous food supply. The practice entails the farming community to plant rice within a month of their planting calendar.
“While the community practices synchronous planting, we also advise farmers to use resistant rice varieties. Resistance is the first defense of plants against pests,” he said.
Identifying brown plant hoppers, stemborers, rice black bugs, and rice bugs or dangaw as major rice pests, Marquez said that harmful organisms can be managed by conserving beneficial insects because they regulate pest population.
“Beneficial insects in the rice field include spiders, coccinelid bettles, parasitoid wasps, and mirid bugs. Farmers are encouraged to conserve beneficial insects by planting flowering plants and vegetables in their fields and by avoiding the use of insecticides,” he said.
Marquez said that spraying commercial pesticides should be considered as farmers’ last option to ensure abundant population of beneficial organisms while applying fertilizers should be done at the right time and amount.
“Excessive fertilizers make rice plants greener and more succulent; thus, making them more attractive and vulnerable to pests. Crops also do not easily lodge when applied with less fertilizer, especially nitrogen,” he said.
Meanwhile, Evelyn Valdez of PhilRice Crop Protection Division, advised farmers to regularly monitor their field to detect pest infestation at early stage and to immediately consult agricultural agencies in case of pest outbreaks and infestations in their area.
Presented in an Agrikapihan with about 40 farmers, the campaign is also implemented by the Municipal Agriculture Offices, local government units, and barangay officials. The PhilRice Text Center (0917-111-7423) also provides information on pest management.
Oplan Iwas Peste was launched in an informal discussion called Agrikapihan wherein about 40 farmers per area shared their experiences and practices on how they manage pests and diseases. The discussion also became a venue for farmers to validate their practices with technical experts, and to raise other concerns in the field such as fertilizer application and irrigation problems.