Block planting, good field sanitation practices essential
Paddy bug infestation…
By Ursulla Ramdayal
The Guyana Rice Development Board’s research scientists say that block planting and good field sanitation practices are important to fight the current paddy bug infestation affecting some rice crops.
While providing an update on the issue in rice growing areas, the scientists also used the opportunity to apprise rice farmers of preventative methods and control of the paddy bug infestation.
Ms. Viviane Baharally, Entomologist of the GRDB within the Burma Rice Research Station advised that rice farmers consult the Farmers’ Manual, where there is a well laid out strategy about integrated pest management. It deals with the combination of several methods of control, in which the paddy bug and every other pest that affects rice can be managed.
“With the paddy bug it starts from the time you sow” she warned. “It is important that farmers stick to block planting.”
Ms. Baharally explained that block planting means farmers in a large open area should plant at the same time, not more than 2 weeks apart, stressing that this type of planting is very important early in the crop.
Field sanitation comes next, the GRDB Entomologist advised, explaining that weeds are the bugs’ alternative hosts for their food since they feed on grass seeds. Bird seed and schoonard grass or any grass that has the seeds which produce some kind of liquid becomes food for the paddy bug. Hence she emphasised the importance of field sanitation.
“You have to ensure you clear the area. Clean the dams; control the weeds in the fields themselves, because these act as alternative hosts and they provide a source of food for the bug. If the bug comes and finds food, they will start to reproduce there.”
The egg masses can be removed manually since they are laid in clusters. Monitoring would enable farmers to know whether they should use insecticide.
“Judicious use of insecticide would enable you to control the bug.”
Baharally explained the threshold for the application for insecticide using the sweep net.
“For every two sweep nets, if you find one bug, that is the application threshold. We insist on monitoring from around 65 days after sowing. Five to 10 days after that the rice will start to head out, and begin flowering in another 10 to 12 days. The aroma attracts the bug,” she warned.
The GRDB scientist urged rice farmers to adopt these practices, since continuous monitoring has shown that the infestation is not under control.
She pointed out that the monitoring teams went into the fields directly and found that farmers who had already sprayed controlled the bug. They still had a few bugs, but at a very low level. “Farmers with the bugs above the threshold did not spray, not even four days after the insecticide was shared out. Those farmers would have a high percentage of paddy bug damage.”
Dr. Mahendra Persaud, Chief Scientist/Plant Breeder of the GRDB within the Burma Rice Research Station said that in relation to the past ten seasons, this season there was a more heavy infestation, or higher level of damage by the paddy bug, and higher population in the field.
“Generally, in a normal season, we would notice that paddy bug damage would have been more severe to the crop that would have been planted late. That has gone a bit out of sync” he stated
He recommended that farmers lay their fields soon with “a little more staggered sowing and, especially in the areas where farmers plant in a more haphazard way, in the timing of planting.”
Some of the assistance offered to the rice farmers whose fields were hit with the bug included free chemicals recommended by the board to the farmers who were not able to acquire it or couldn’t afford it, especially in regions 4, 5 and 6 which were the hard hit areas.
Dr. Persaud stated that the GRDB is still trying to make more farmers aware, and understand the benefits of the management programme of the paddy bug. He reiterated that control begins at the starting of the crop.
“If you see the paddy bug and cannot manage, or you need advice, contact our closest extension officer or call the Burma Rice Research Station…we will send a team to help you. Set your fields in order so the bug will not want to come there” he urged.
Currently, the only area still with levels of infestation is the Hogstye-Borlam area in Berbice. This was caused by farmers who planted their crops very late, due to problems with irrigation water.
However, only about 5 to 10 acres are affected and that would not be lost. There would be no impact on the yield but on the quality of the rice produced.