Rice black bugs threaten farms in northern Iloilo

ILOILO – Farmers in the northern towns of Sara, San Dionisio, Concepcion, and Ajuy reported rice black bugs in their fields. These pests feed on rice plants from their seedling up to the maturity stage. They are highly destructive and thrive in well-irrigated but poorly-drained areas.

There were also sightings in the municipality of Banate, according to Elias Sandig Jr., assistant department head of the Provincial Agriculture Office (PAO).

But so far, the farmers have not complained of damage to their standing rice crops, much to the relief of the PAO.

The goal for now is to endeavor to stop the spread of the rice black bugs, Sandig said.

For rice black bug infestation, PhilRice’s Crop Protection Division recommends the use of light traps because the bugs are strongly attracted to high intensity light.

Light trapping of insects should start five days before and after the full moon, experts recommend. Use 2,000-3,000 watts or super light during outbreaks and set them up every night to obtain the most number of bugs.

Effective light trapping is from 8 p.m. to 12 midnight, according to experts.

Flooding, herding of ducks in the field, and sanitation also prevent pest infestation.

PhilRice advises farmers to flood the field to submerge pest egg masses. Eggs that are submerged for more than 24 hours will no longer hatch.

Ducks also feed on the bugs. However, herd the duck in the field a month after transplanting or when the plants are established.

Farmers must also clean their field by removing the weeds as these serve as alternate hosts of the rice black bugs.

Rice black bugs can cause discoloration on rice plants’ leaves and they would look wounded because of the lesions present on them. Affected plants or crops would turn reddish brown or yellow in color.

They would also appear stunted because the bugs sap the nutrients inside them which are essential for their seeding and growth.

The International Rice Research Institute has the following suggestions to determine if rice plants are being attacked by black bugs:

* Check leaves for discoloration. Black bug damage can cause reddish brown or yellowing of plants. Leaves also have chlorotic lesions.

* Check for decreased tillering. Bugburn symptoms show wilting of tillers with no visible honeydew deposits or sooty molds.

* Plants are also stunted; and can develop stunted panicles, no panicles, incompletely exerted panicles, and unfilled spikelets or whiteheads at booting stage.

* Check for deadhearts.

Deadhearts can also be caused by stemborer. To confirm cause of damage, pull infected plants. In black bug damage, infected plants cannot be pulled at the bases.

Heavy infestation and “bugburn” is usually visible after heading or maturing. (Sources: PhilRice, IRRI, topbest.ph/PN)


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