Rice farmers of Hague on the West Coast Demerara in Region Three have encountered a very strange development in some of our rice plots in this vast rice farming community. We all know that it is a rice disease which looks like “Root worms or Root rot” but it has significant immunity against all known insecticides and this is what sends jitters of fear into the minds of all rice farmers. Nothing seems to stop the progression of this particular rice disease.
I shall give an overview of what has been happening for the past four weeks. My fellow rice farmer, Mr. Omar Dhany sowed his plots of rice on June 14, 2018. One plot has GRDB#10 and the other GRDB#15. One broad dam separates the two plots. Because of persistent rainfall, all the harvested rice straw in the fields did not burn thoroughly and then, we had to do land preparation in water. All rice stubbles and unburnt rice straw were immersed in the soil before levelling for seedlings broadcast.
Every rice farmer is knowledgeable of the fact that rice sown under the above condition will emerge with a pale yellow colour which would not last for more than 7-14 days, then it changes rapidly after the first application of urea fertilizer at 18-21 days old. Such change must reflect a rich olive-green colour. However, if this does not happen, know that your plot has been under water-borne or other pest attacks.
In my friend’s plots never did that change take place. They remained pale yellow in colour well past 45 days old and did not gain height. Ninety percent of the plant population had not attained more than six inches height. At this plant age, panicle initiation takes place.
My friend made reports to the GRDB field officer at the Crane Sub Regional Office. They have been visiting ever since and nothing has changed significantly. The visit to the plots was welcome by all of us but a field officer’s training would only cause him to deliver to the farmer on a limited basis. He has a certain cut-off point and here is where Research Scientists at Burma Research Station have got to be more decisive on a particular course of action to be taken.
At Burma we have an Entomology Department, also a Plant Pathologist and so too an Agronomist. These people are trained in their respective fields and have become agri scientists to serve all the farmers of our country. But may I ask one pertinent question- where have all the scientists gone? With such a disease outbreak no one saw it fit from Burma to visit Hague to do an on-the-spot appraisal so far.
The Entomology Department has gone limp for some time and has now become too lame to serve meaningfully. If the head of this very, very important scientific component of the Burma Research Station does not stop being indifferent to the poor rice farmers’ plight then woe be unto the entire rice industry! Because this insect infestation is on the loose and it is spreading rapidly. Out of desperation we were able to have the services of a friend- (pro bono) to visit the affected plots to see what might be the cause of the infected rice plants. After a few sweeps with a net, he was able to identify the destructive insect as a tiny brown (grasshopper) a wee-bit smaller than the heart worm flies. What he has said to us about this particular insect is that it would bore the young rice plant just above the water level and suck the plant nutrients away; thus hindering the plant progression. He further said that if there are no holistic efforts by the relevant authorities; the damage to the rice will be irreparable. The person who came and expressed nobility in his services to us is Mr. Brigesh Singh, a very remarkable gentleman.
If our local research personnel cannot handle this insect outbreak. Why can’t we ask the United Nations for their help? They would willingly come to our rescue.
Save the rice industry with the appropriate intervention and so save our welfare too.
Ganga Persaud (Bobby)
Editor’s note: The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) in a statement on August 6th on this matter had said that the “The GRDB was aware of the farmer’s problem and immediately provided extension services. It was determined that the farmer needed to drain the field, apply any systematic pesticide, in this instance, it was recommended that Pronto and Regional at the recommended rates be used. However, the farmer ignored the advice of the Extension Officers”.
The statement said that according to General Manager of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), Mr. Nizam Hassan a subsequent visit by the Rice Board showed that the farmer had instances of water weevil and had not been spraying with the required pesticide recommended by the Extension team. The farmer also admitted to not draining his field despite being advised to do so. The farmer had been applying a contact insecticide instead, rather than a systematic pesticide.
“A contact insecticide will not give any control for water weevil larvae, and this was made clear to the farmers. They were warned of the repercussions in the event that the advice of the Rice board was not followed” the General Manager reiterated in the statement.
The statement added that a subsequent meeting with farmers in the area showed that other farmers had indeed encountered the said problem, but were able to control the weevil by completely draining their fields and applying systematic insecticides.
The statement said that the General Manager echoed the call for farmers to work with the Extension Officers by heeding their advice on best practices.