CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture in the region (DA-10) assured the public that the reported fall armyworm (FAW) infestation on corn plantations in some areas in Northern Mindanao has not yet reached an alarming level.
Carlota Madriaga, DA-10 technical director for operations, said they received reports of infestation as early as last year, but noted it was “negligible” as the damage was still then minimal. The sudden change in the weather, however, contributed to the proliferation of the FAWs with worms attacking the corn plant from its early stage up to the time that it begins to bear fruit.
In its latest report, the department said eight towns and one component city in Bukidnon has been hit by FAW while the municipality of Claveria in Misamis Oriental has also been affected.
Madriaga shared that as of Saturday, June 6, FAW has damaged 269.45 hectares of cornfields in Bukidnon, the largest crop producer in the region.
Based on DA-10’s most recent data, Northern Mindanao has a total of 129,799 hectares of land planted with both white and yellow corn varieties primarily produced for livestock feeds and for human consumption. Of these, Bukidnon devoted 78,918 hectares for corn production; Lanao del Norte, 24,900; Misamis Oriental, 16,670; Misamis Occidental, 8,794; and Camiguin, 517.
DA-10’s primary interventions, Madriaga shared, was to provide affected corn farmers with pesticides and biological control agents in the form of microorganisms mass-produced by the department’s Regional Crop Protection Center (RCPC) designed to combat the worms.
Ready chemicals in DA-10’s RCPC for the control of FAW infestation is good for 6,300 hectares, based on June 1 inventory.
The agriculture department had also activated its quick response team tasked with monitoring the situation on the ground as well as in extending assistance to the affected farmers.
However, DA-10 could not yet give the initial worth of the crop damage as agency specialists are still validating the extent of the destruction.
Carlene Collado, DA-10 regional executive director, said a team is already tasked to conduct validation on the extent of the damage of the FAW infestation in Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental.
The department’s Regulatory Division, in coordination with the Bureau of Plant Industry, and provincial and municipal local governments, have intensified pest monitoring and surveillance to affected and non-affected areas.
“FAW is an invasive species causing damage to crops, mostly corn. It is an invasive moth and prefers to eat maize, specifically the sweet corn and open-pollinated corn varieties,” explained Collado.
A bane to farmers
In Claveria, where most of the corn production is located, the destruction brought by FAW is slowly being felt by the town’s farmers. Corn growers in Barangay Ane-I already informed their local officials on the worm infestation.
Ismael Tion, 65, shared he was worried that the damage caused by FAW would cut back his income. He expected that the 10 hectares he planted with corn would only yield half of what he projected.
“I hope I can recover from this so I can pay off the loan I have made for my capital,” he wished.
Meanwhile, Cresan Caabay, 39, said he was grateful he was able to detect the presence of FAW two weeks after planting corn on his 2.5-hectare farmland. He shared his cornfield was the first to be attacked by the worms, but he was quick to deter further destruction through insecticide spraying.
Pepe Yecyec, a corn specialist at the Claveria Municipal Agriculture Office, said the town has around 10,000 hectares planted with corn scattered in its 24 barangays.
As of June 6, he shared that FAW infestation in Claveria is not yet at the alarming stage since it damaged only about five percent of the total area.
Yecyec urged other farmers to check their cornfields for any sign of infestation since these worms only attack at night and start feeding on corn plants in the middle of the plantation making it harder for detection. (davaotoday.com)