Ilocos farmers say “Tarzan” attack most destructive


CANDON CITY — Farmers from Sta. Catalina, Ilocos Sur continue to bear the diamond back moth (DBM), Plutella xylostella (L.) outbreak that destroyed hectares of cabbage and cauliflower, the main cash crop in the municipality. The infestation of the insect, locally known as “Tarzan” was reported in December 2017. Occurrence of the pest in the municipality has been recorded every other year.

The attack was extensive and the damage so severe that a State of Calamity was declared through Sanggunian Bayan Resolution No. 0005, Series of 2018. In an interview, Mayor Edgar Rapanut said that from 30 hectares, the affected area now covers 150 hectares.

A fifth income class and non-tobacco producing municipality, Sta. Catalina’s internal revenue allotment and share from Republic Act 7171 cannot totally provide the needed assistance. The local agriculture office also lacks the technical expertise to fully address the problem.

A motion requesting Governor Ryan Luis Singson and the Department of Agriculture to provide financial and technical assistance was also passed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan recently.

Most destructive pest

DBM is considered one of the most destructive insect pest of crucifer crops that include cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and pechay among others. According to studies, areas where the population of this pest’s builds up, commercial production of crucifers become impossible. In the Philippines, highland farmers have reported 100% loss due to DBM infestation.

The insect was first recorded in 1927. Its first outbreak happened in the country in 1965. After two years, a field trial on insecticide to combat the insect was conducted. In just three years after the trial, the first resistance was noted. By 1976, DBM has already developed multiple resistance to insecticides. The extensive damage is mainly attributed to this.

Based on the 2012 Arthropod Pesticide Resistance Database, DBM has shown resistance to 95 active ingredients used in chemical pesticides, including some varieties of bacillus thuringiensis used for genetically engineered crops.

Pesticide trap

The Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (STOP Exploitation) pointed that Farmers’ experience with massive infestation has shown that insecticides alone are ineffective. The group said that farmers tend to be caught in the “pesticide trap.”

Pesticide trap is a term used to refer when higher volume and more toxic pesticides are utilized to fight pest that have already developed resistance. Since 1945, between 500 and 1,000 insect and weed species have developed pesticide resistance according to the Pesticide Action Network (PAN).

Commercial cultivators of crucifers are 85-91% dependent on pesticide, using a minimum of two varieties every cropping season with 7-21 days interval between applications. Mayor Rapanut claimed that farmers in his town are already combining six different pesticides but failed to control the spread and damage of DBM.

Zaldy Alfiler, the group’s Secretary General, stressed that the DBM outbreak highlights the need for local governments to give attention to integrated pest management (IPM) programs.

“Otherwise, the misuse and abuse of insecticide will continue, increasing the occurrence of insecticide resistant bugs, production cost and health risk,” he added.

IPM utilizes the combination of biological, behavioral, cultural and minimal chemical use. It is principally intended to manipulate the natural enemies of pest. The measure is necessary to effectively control pest attacks and a sustainable agriculture ecosystem.

TNCs, gov’t to blame

STOP Exploitation blamed transnational (TNC) agrochemical corporations and the government’s neglect for the strings of pest outbreaks that hit farmers.

Alfiler said that agrochemical TNCs patented seeds and pesticide packages promoted by the government are the real culprit that created pesticide-resistant weeds and insects. These technologies also made the farmers dependent on seeds and inputs produced by agro-industrial corporations.

He cited the implementation of the Green Revolution under the Marcos regime that drastically increased the utilization of chemicals in crop production. According to IBON Foundation, pesticide importation increased fivefold in only six years under the Masagana 99 program, benefiting agrochemical transnational corporations.

“The TNCs promise of higher yield and protection by TNCs like BASF, Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer have actually increased the production cost and health risk to farmers,” notes Alfiler.

Despite the new pesticides and GM crops, the damaged caused by pests from 1950’s to present has increased in severity and scope. In the United States, PAN recorded a 13% increase in crop loss since the 1980’s. The group also claimed that GM crops have led to 527 million pound increase of herbicide use between 1996 and 2011. #


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