With fall armyworm (FAW) continuously infesting farms across the country, corn farmers are facing a bigger problem than declining farm-gate prices. The infestation’s estimated loss in the economy? Around P20 billion.
A statement showed that the government now sees a P20-billion economic loss for corn’s crop year due to FAW infestation, which is expected to affect 1.6 million metric tons (MT) of harvest on a total of 2.5 million hectares of corn area.
The infestation’s damage will also affect feed millers, food processors, livestock and poultry raisers, traders and consolidators, and finally, consumers.
In a forum co-hosted by Bayer Philippines Inc., the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) FAW Crisis Management Team Chief Lorenzo Caranguian reported that the government is now intensifying strategies against the said infestation as loss is foreseen to be worsened by the incoming dry season planting.
FAW, which was first observed in the Philippines in March last year, is a dangerous transboundary insect spreading rapidly in the country’s corn farms.
So far, here in the country, FAW infestation has already adversely affected corn harvest in 57 out of 81 provinces, covering 288 out of 1,488 towns and cities. Its average degree of damage in surveyed areas is 44.43 percent.
Hardest hit areas are Cagayan Valley (with 5,428 hectares affected), Zamboanga Peninsula (1,154 hectares), Soccsksargen (1,703 hectares), Northern Mindanao (1,191 hectares), and Bicol (533 hectares).
“As we approach the dry season, this November to December planting up to harvest in March to April next year, FAW infestation will most likely peak. That is a period when we’re really expecting harvest to be bountiful,” said Caranguian.
To prepare for this, he said the DA has already adopted a FAW Integrated Pest Management (IPM) protocol.
Under this protocol, corn farmers are advised to detect the presence of the pest at the earliest stages and apply three actions against the pest, according to Bureau of Plant Industry Crop Protection Chief Wilma Cuaterno.
The actions are the use of trap crops (planting legumes 20 days prior to corn planting); field inspection (observe feces, egg masses, larvae that indicate FAW presence); the use of pest attractants, which are organic bait trap such as molasses with vinegar; and the use of commercial pheromones as traps and lures.
In July, the DA set aside a P150-million quick response fund for the program. It has also allocated another P100 million to intensify pest control.
Caranguian said the government is also studying corn varieties claimed to be resistant against FAW, such as the Dekalb VT Double Pro, a product by German multinational pharmaceutical and life sciences company Bayer.
“DA will conduct a nationwide corn derby where all corn varieties claiming resistance against FAW will be grown and tested for their pest resistance and yield. It will be multi-locational in order for farmers to see for themselves varieties suitable to them,” Carangian said.
Field studies have shown the Dekalb VT Double Pro corn plants have withstood FAW in the last dry season