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Army worms destroy NE onions
By Armand M. Galang

Mar 08, 2018

SAN JOSE CITY - Army worms, locally called “harabas,” have attacked at least 40 percent of 1,181 hectares of onion and garlic plantation in various villages here and the damage continues to increase, a ranking agriculture official said Tuesday.

Violeta Vargas, city agriculturist, said the cost of damage was estimated at P139, 850,172 as of March 4.

“Sobrang bilis manira. Yung nakikita mo ngayon na kulay green, bukas ay wala na,” Vargas said, adding that their monitoring showed farmers fail to contain the pests amid all efforts.

It was the first time that army worms affected onion farmers here, she said, even if the pests have destroyed crops in Bongabon and other Nueva Ecija areas in 2016.

Vargas said the local government is studying the declaration of state of calamity to use funds in helping affected farmers.

Ariel Alejo, provincial crop protection officer of the provincial agriculture office, said that aside from San Jose City, onion farms are also locatfed in Lupao, Rizal, Gen. Natividad, Laur, Bongabon, Carranglan, Llanera, Quezon, Talavera, Cuyapo, Science City of Muñoz, Sto. Domingo, Aliaga, Palayan City, Nampicuan, Pantabangan, Licab, Gapan City, Guimba, Gabaldon, Cabanatuan City and Gen. Tinio.

As of latest report, Alejo said, aff ected areas in the whole province total to 8,378 hectares.

Among the onion varieties in the province are yellow gannex, red creole, red shallot and spring onion, Alejo added.

Alejo said their office is now reaching out to farmers “to be able to save what can be saved,” for this season saying the loss can reach billions of pesos if the infestation remains unabated.

He said farmers were advised to refrain from over application of pesticide to onion plants, which they have been doing in attempts to kill army worms, because it would entail more problems in the future like the pest’s immunity from the chemicals.

In a dialogue between farmers ang agriculturists here Tuesday, some officials aired concern that consumers would shy away from locally harvested onions for fear of toxic chemicals due to pesticide abuse.

Farmers, Alejo said, were also advised to rest their lands for at least two months after harvest to deny army worms of host and stop propagation.

In Bongabon town, tagged as the “Onion Basket of the Philippines,” farmers lament that the only brand of pesticide, originally used for cabbage, which turned out to be effective against army worms has been raised in price from P1,400 per bottle before the army worms attack to P1,800 a bottle now.

To illustrate the damage, Alejo explained farmers now harvest only 15 red bags of bulbs from a can of seeds. A can should have produced at least 50 bags, he stressed.

“Pag hindi nila inabot yung 50 buriki (bags) per can ay lugi sila,” Alejo said.

A hectare requires eight to 10 cans of seeds at estimated consolidated costs of P25,000 per can or as much as P250,000 a hectare capital, it was learned.



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