TACLOBAN CITY – Instead of vast fields with golden yellow grains, farmers encountered brown and fallen rice stalks at the end of this cropping season on Samar island.
In Eastern Samar, small destructive insects called brown plant hoppers came in droves and attacked several hectares of rice paddies. The pests left destruction in their wake.
Nerio Naputo, a farmer from the town of Taft, said he noticed that the leaves of his rice plants turned brown after the insects feasted on them, and that all that was left of the kernels were the husks.
Before the pests spread all over his rice field, Naputo reaped the crops that were still healthy. However, his harvest was meager.
“Baa kay guti la. Mga upa. Siguro nakatunga it upa (We have little harvest. Almost half of what we gathered were just hulls),” Naputo said.
Naputo’s fellow farmers from nearby rice fields also suffered the same plight.
Felicitas Adao expressed fear that rice prices might spike because of scant supply.
“Magyayano kami hit pamalit hit bugas kun wara na…Makuri, dara kay asya ito nga mananap nagkuan (If we run out of rice from our harvest, we will be pushed to buy rice. This is really hard for us),” she said.
Based on an initial report of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Eastern Visayas, brown plant hoppers infested 541 hectares of rice fields in the towns of Taft, Sulat, San Julian, Can-avid, Dolores, Oras, Arteche, and Jipapad in Eastern Samar.
DA officials said that the rains earlier this year might have caused the pest infestation, since brown plant hoppers thrive in moist areas.
“This particular insect loves moisture. They stay one inch above water level. Doon sila magdami. Nag-feed sila sa puno. They feed by punching, piercing then sucking [plants]. Kaya yun, natutuyo yung dahon,” said Reynaldo Salamat, chief of Integrated Laboratory Division of DA-8.
DA officials also advised farmers to save rice stalks that the pests did not yet affect.
“Kung matured na iyong mga plant na affected, harvest na agad. Tapos i-drain ito kasi conducive siya [sa mga insekto] lalo na sa rainy season,” said U-Nichols Manalo, regional director of DA-8.
Manalo also advised farmers to burn affected rice straws, as they might become the breeding ground of brown plant hoppers.
Meanwhile in Northern Samar, bacterial leaf blight damaged 116 hectares of rice fields in the towns of Palapag, Las Navas, Lao-ang, Victoria, Allen, Lavezares, Rosario, San Jose, and Catarman.
Around P17 million worth of agricultural damage was reported in both pest-infested provinces.
Agriculture authorities said they expect rice production in Samar to be less than usual. However, they assured that interventions were already underway to help affected farmers.
They also assured that they are continuously monitoring conditions to ensure that the pests will not spread to other farmlands.