Paddy bug hits rice crop

With more than 10,000 acres already lost to paddy bug infestation, surveys of affected areas showed a poor level of sanitation in and around rice fields and staggered sowing dates, Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud says.

These measures, Persaud explained yesterday, are the first steps which are taken to manage the level of paddy bugs. In April, high levels of paddy bug infestation were recorded in Regions 4, 5 and 6. The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), according to the Agriculture Minister, alerted farmers about this in several notices in the national newspapers.

Meetings, he said, were also held with farmers in the various affected districts to address queries of the paddy bug control method and other related issues. Subsequent monitoring of the situation revealed a second migration into fields. This second migration, Persaud wrote in a correspondence with Stabroek News, was attributed to the fact that fields in the same block were not sprayed together, abandoned fields were not targeted for spraying, and high migration of the bugs from the nesting areas.

The agriculture ministry also procured and distributed an insecticide (Pronto) for immediate application. However, monitoring by ministry officials revealed that 3-4 days after the insecticide was distributed it had not yet been sprayed.  In the meantime, Persaud said, the bugs continued to feed and cause damage to the grains, which eventually would have resulted in grade C to sub-standard paddy at the mills.

In Region 6, monitoring after the distribution of the insecticide showed that control was achieved in Black Bush Polder and Upper Corentyne. However, in the Hogstye-Borlam area, a high infestation was still evident and a second application of Pronto was immediately done. Farmers in the area were advised to spray promptly and together in order to reduce the chances of migration of the bugs.  Daily monitoring was also encouraged.

Persaud wrote: “The Hogstye-Borlam area remains susceptible to paddy bug attack since it was the last area in the region to be sown and possess staggered growth stages.  To date, the crop has about one month more to reach maturity, while all other areas are concluding with harvesting.  This situation presents a continuous supply of food for the bugs.  The average paddy bug damage recorded in the region so far is 12%.”

 Integrated Pest Management (IPM), according to the minister, is the main recommendation for the management of paddy bugs.
Meanwhile, General Secretary of the Guyana Rice Producers’ Association, Dharamkumar Seeraj, told this newspaper that 5 to 6 thousand acres was affected in Region 5 and 6 to 7 thousand acres in Region 6.

Yields for the first crop, Seeraj stressed, have already been estimated and there had been no significant decrease. The paddy bugs became a problem shortly before most of the rice for the first crop would’ve been harvested.

Those farmers who cultivated their crops late (expecting to harvest April/May) were affected by the infestation. Most of the loss, according to Seeraj, resulted from the fact that farmers were not being as vigilant as they should’ve been.

Paddy bug infestation is a problem that the industry has had to deal with time and time again for years and the aim, in late March/early April when the problem was discovered, was prevention. Farmers, Seeraj said, suffered varying degrees of damage but the highest percentage of loss for any crop was about 20 percent.

Seeraj – when questioned about whether compensation would be provided to affected farmers – said that the ministry was already providing compensation to those who lost crops as a result of the shortage of irrigation water during El Nino.

He further explained that the paddy bug problem may have surfaced because of the recent dry conditions. “The dry weather would’ve destroyed the grass and other vegetation the bugs would use for food so as a result they moved to the nearest source, the rice fields,” Seeraj said.