Friday, August 06, 2010

‘Handpicking of worms better than chemical’

By Vishia Mae Dominic Tolcidas
RACG Representative
FITS OPA Negros Occidental

LA CASTELLANA, Negros Occidental - A sugarcane farmer whose farm swarmed with armyworms a year ago recommends handpicking of these pests as a better alternative to chemical use.
Joebert Regalado, who owns a 10-hectare farm in Sitio Cambugnay, Barangay Cabacungan here, said employing people to pick worms is effective to contain the pests and is also safe and environment-friendly.

“Chemical is ineffective because it will not kill all the pests. Rather than spend for quarts upon quarts of these harmful chemicals, it’s better to give livelihood to people,” he told his fellow barangay kagawads and personnel of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) monitoring pest infestation in the area.

Regalado said that during the armyworm infestation last year, he hired 50 laborers for one week and gathered almost 30 sacks, or about 5-10 sacks of these pests a day. “These pests died and were buried to become fertilizer. Handpicking was successful and my farm recovered,” he said.

This first cropping season, infestation of armyworms and cutworms are scattered across hundreds of hectares of land planted with rice, sugarcane, corn, vegetables, and grass in the province. The infestation is attributed to the long dry spell such as the El Niño phenomenon which came before the rainy season.

Regalado, however, said his farm has not been attacked by pests since June this year. “I found no eggs of the worms in my farm,” he said. As a dutiful farmer, Regalado said he visits his farm every two days and if he sees a pest attack, he immediately deploys laborers to pick them one by one. He added that the worms don’t itch so it’s safe, especially to children who usually pass by the farm, and get a few canes to eat.

Worms that attacked Regalado’s farm last year were big, green in color with black head and stomach. “They are about the size of a child’s finger and grow big each week. After a month, they become pupae and turn into moths,” he said.

Armando Abaño, Corn Integrated Pest Specialist of OPA, said the worms that attacked Regalado’s farm are the kind of armyworms that feed on sugarcane leaves.

OPA has been promoting integrated pest management (IPM) through the Farmers Field School (FFS), a program of the Department of Agriculture. Among them are cultural and biological measures such as handpicking, spraying of soap solution, weeding of farmlands, and the use of natural enemies such as friendly insects, ducks, and birds.

The latest proven bio-control is the local strain of the nuclear polyhedrosis virus (NPV) now being tested at the Negros State College of Agriculture in Kabankalan City. It uses the original cultured NPV solution discovered at FFS in Moises Padilla last year.

Abaño said NPV is a virus affecting armyworms and cutworms that are also found in the bodies of these worms. Once there is a significant build-up of the virus in their bodies, symptoms are easily noticeable such as vomiting, weakness, slow movement to no movement at all, refusal to eat, their rears turned up.

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