By: Lydia C. Pendon
FARMERS must plant vegetables along rice to help manage the pests and reduce expenses for pesticides, according to crop protection expert Gertrudo Arida.
A division head of PhilRice crop protection division, Arida said that planting vegetables such as okra, kalabasa, talong provides food for egg parasitoids and shelter for predators.
Palayamanan or diversified farming program of the agriculture department can provide a diverse habitat for beneficial organisms or natural enemies to rice pests. Flowering vegetables in Palayamanan are sources of pollen and nectars and home of predators.
Arida is promoting ecological engineering in the farms, a strategy that lessens pesticide use by improving the beneficial insects’ habitat. Beneficial insects in the rice field include spiders, coccinelid bettles, long legged flies, and yellowish-brown ants.
These are the beneficial farm insects included in the integrated pest management strategy of the agriculture department in using biological and natural fighting method against harmful rice pests.
“To prevent pest outbreaks, we recommend the conservation of natural enemies to lessen the unnecessary and costly use of pesticides,” Arida said.
Farmers spray pesticides indiscriminately and usually without proper gear to protect themselves. This practice does not only kill natural enemies by insecticide misuse, but also risk farmers’ health.
Statistics from the World Health Organization showed about 3 million cases of pesticide poisoning annually and 220,000 deaths caused by indiscriminate pesticide use.