Fall armyworm pest threatens PH corn production
The fall armyworm (FAW) pest is seen inflicting losses in the local corn industry that can reach P20 billion, or about 20 percent of the total yearly output of the commodity in 2019, as it continues to munch its way to several corn farms in the country.
In fact, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA), the worse is yet to come.
“As we approach the dry season, from the November to December planting period up to the harvest season in March to April next year, FAW will most likely peak. That is a period when we’re really expecting harvest to be bountiful,” FAW crisis management team chief Lorenzo Caranguian said.
To date, the crop pest has already ravaged 1.6 million tons of harvest, affecting 2.5 million hectares of land in over 57 provinces.
Destruction is reported to have been severe in Cagayan Valley (5,428 ha), Zamboanga Peninsula (1,154 ha), Soccsksargen (1,703 ha) and Northern Mindanao (1,191 ha).
Agriculture Secretary William Dar earlier described the plant-munching worm as a “threat to our food security,” stressing the impact of its destruction to one of the country’s staple crops.
The agency has already adopted a FAW integrated pest management protocol, wherein corn farmers are advised to detect the presence of the pest at the earliest stages to curb its spread.
To complement the initiative, the DA also released P150 million from its quick response fund to address the plant pandemic and another P100 million to intensify pest control. The funds came from the DA’s allocation under the Bayanihan law.
Caranguian said the government was also studying corn varieties claimed to be FAW resistant, particularly the Dekalb VT Double Pro.
“The DA will conduct a nationwide corn derby where all corn varieties claiming resistance to FAW will be grown and tested … It will be multilocational so farmers can see for themselves the varieties that are suitable to them,” he added.
While the FAW is seen to destroy mostly corn farms, it has been observed to hurt some sugarcane crops in Cagayan Valley as well.
The fall armyworm reproduces quickly with female adults laying 2,000 eggs in a single instance. It can also fly at night over a 100-kilometer distance and up to 500 km with the aid of the wind.
FAW was first observed in the country last year in Piat, Cagayan, and has rapidly spread to other provinces such as Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino. INQ