By Marilyn Galang

ATTACK ON RICE. Rice black bugs are sap-feeding insects that attack rice plants in almost all stages of growth. The Department of Agriculture, in its advisory, said it is one of the pests that normally attack during the first quarter of the year. (File photo by DA-PhilRice)

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija – The Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) here on Wednesday urged farmers to protect crops from possible infestation by monitoring pests and diseases that normally attack during the first quarter of the year.

The Department of Agriculture, based on its historical data, noted in its advisory released last week that the pests and diseases likely to occur from January to March are rodents, rice black bug, brown plant hopper, rice stem borer and bacterial leaf blight.

Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Pampanga and Tarlac are the provinces in Central Luzon that are susceptible to infestation.

Nueva Ecija provincial agriculturist Bernardo Valdez said although there is no report yet of pest infestation, particularly rats in the province, their extension workers are closely monitoring the presence of the destructive pests.

He added that crop damage could be avoided by monitoring the presence of pests and diseases.

“Sa kabuuan sa Nueva Ecija, wala pa kaming nakikita na nagkakaroon ng infestation, lalo na sa daga. Yun naman ay mahigpit na mino-monitor ng mga extension worker natin sa bawat bayan at siyudad sa ating lalawigan (In the entire Nueva Ecija, we have not seen infestation, particularly rats. This is strictly being monitored by our extension workers in every town and city in our province),”Valdez said in a radio interview.

He added that they are in close coordination with the DA’s Regional Crop Protection Center in discussing with farmers the necessary steps to contain the pest infestation such as the implementation of integrated pest management practices.

“Pest infestation is a major threat that we should prepare for. Farmers are advised to follow appropriate farming technologies like pesticide application,” he added.

In case of the occurrence of pest infestation, Valdez said their office with the help of the DA and the Regional Crop Protection Center is ready to provide support to the farmers.

“Sa mga magsasaka natin dito sa Nueva Ecija, kung mayroon po kayong naoobserbahan o mangilan-ngilan na naapektuhan ng pag-atake ng daga o iba pang peste, makipag-ugnayan po kayo sa Municipal Agriculture Office at kami naman dito sa Provincial Agriculture Office ay laging nakasuporta para mabigyan lunas yun mga ganun sitwasyon (To the farmers here in Nueva Ecija, if you have observed or having been attacked by rats or other pests, coordinate to the Municipal Agriculture Office and we here at the Provincial Agriculture Office are always supportive to provide solutions to such kind of situation),” he added.

A study by the International Rice Research Institute showed farmers lose an estimated average of 5-10 percent of their rice crop associated with rat damage every year.

Likewise, according to the Philippine Rice Research Institute, pest infestations could reduce the rice harvests by 15 to 23 percent once the insect population hits a ratio of 10 bugs for each hill of rice plants. (PNA)