At least 4,000 hectares of farms in Northern Samar and Eastern Samar provinces have been plagued by destructive pest and disease, the Department of Agriculture said.

In a report released by the farm department, DA Regional Executive Director U-Nichols Manalo said bacterial leaf blight (BLB) have been wreaking havoc in nine Northern Samar towns while brown plant hoppers have been attacking seven Eastern Samar towns.

Affected towns are Palapag, Las Navas, Lao-ang, Victoria, Allen, Lavezares, Rosario, San Jose, and Catarman in Northern Samar; San Julian, Sulat, Taft, Dolores, Oras, Arteche, and Jipapad in Eastern Samar.

Local government units have already submitted their respective damage reports and the total estimated loss value is still undergoing verification by the farm department, according to Manalo

“The DA is now seeking the help of the municipal agriculture officers as well as the farmers themselves to adopt some mitigating measures or pest management practices,” the DA regional chief said.

BLB is caused by Xanthomonas oryzae pv. Oryzicola bacterium, which turns rice plants into brown. Under severe conditions, this could lead to reduced grain weight due to loss of photosynthetic area, according to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

IRRI explained that high population of plant hoppers cause leaves to initially turn orange-yellow before becoming brown and drying. This condition kills the plant. The hopper is capable of transmitting incurable Rice Ragged Stunt and Rice Grassy Stunt diseases.

Pest infestations have been recorded in Northern Samar since early of January this year. Eastern Samar farmers noticed the abnormal hoppers population on the last week of February.

Plant pest and disease experts from the farm department were deployed last week to check the situation and launch an information drive on how to manage the infestation.

The government also provide farmers any possible assistance including the conduct of capability enhancement training of technicians on pest management as reports of crop diseases and pest infestations keep coming.

The DA advised affected farmers to continue monitoring of rice fields, immediate harvesting of remaining unaffected matured crops, light trapping, metarhizium spray, judicious use of nitrogen fertilizers, among others.

“All these are being done in a bid to minimize the effects of the infestation and, at the same time, prevent the spread of the disease to areas not yet affected by the pests to ensure that the same pest problem will not resurge in the next cropping season,” Manalo added.

The DA believes that pests and diseases thrived in Samar provinces due to high humidity, excessive use of nitrogenous fertilizer, closer crop canopy, and indiscriminate use of pesticide that kills their natural enemies.

Northern Samar and Eastern Samar provinces are considered as top rice-producing areas in Eastern Visayas region, with planted areas of 34,988 hectares and 26,737 hectares, respectively.(PNA) RMA/SQM