MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) is allotting P150-million worth of assistance to farmers whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the fall armyworm pest, which already spread across 47 provinces in the country.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar, in a statement on Saturday, described the plant-munching worm as a “threat to our food security,” noting the destruction it has caused to vast cornfields nationwide.

To date, the fall armyworm has affected cornfields four times the size of Makati City, or approximately 8,000 hectares across 208 municipalities.

The highly destructive pest was first detected in Piat, Cagayan last year in June, and has now spread to as far as Mindanao.

“We are deploying crop experts and procuring needed crop protection chemicals and biocontrol agents to effectively manage, control, and contain fall armyworm…” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.

The larvae of fall armyworms feed on corn, rice, and other crops, which effectively damage farmlands and cause significant losses in yield.

Regions that were hardest hit by the pest include Cagayan Valley (4,214 ha), Soccskargen (1,730 ha), Northern Mindanao (882 ha), and Zamboanga Peninsula (665 ha).

According to DA corn program director Lorenzo Caranguian, the fall armyworm can be eradicated using a combination of crop protection chemicals, biocontrol agents, and timely integrated pest management practices.

To date, the agency has provided farmers 63,017 packs of Pheromone lures, 86,983 liters of pesticides, and biological control agents such as Trichogramma chilonis to control fall armyworm eggs and earwigs.

It has also conducted seminars on integrated pest management, pest control techniques, and good agricultural practices.

To sustain the campaign against the crop disease, Dar said that they created a DA-led inter-agency national task force on fall armyworm, which would lead the implementation of measures to effectively control the infestation.

The fall armyworm can fly long distances and can develop resistance to insecticides, making it a difficult insect to eradicate.

According to the Bureau of Plant Industry, it ruined around 70 percent of yield in Central America when it was not controlled, and caused billions of dollars worth of damage in some African countries.

JPV


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