NOT all the king’s men can stop the march of armyworms. What the king’s men failed to do, however, a farmer succeeded in beating back the invading hordes that have been destroying Negros Occidental’s food crops.

A young Kabankalanon farmer-scientist harnessed nuclear polyhedrosis virus (NPV) as a biological weapon against armyworms, the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist recently announced. Roland Quimpo experimented with an NPV solution against the armyworms feasting on his peanut plants.

Within three days, the horde was kaput. Quimpo tried the NPV solution against the armyworms in his Tamlang farm. His purok was one of the worst hit with the attack. Said he, “I observed that the worms vomited, no longer ate the leaves of my plants, became weak, their rears turned up, and died.  I found black spots on their abdomen.”

Quimpo then turned his NPV crosshair on his infested ricefield and bitter gourd (amargoso) garden. The armyworms were gone after a few days. In fact, after spraying his bitter gourd, he noted that “the worms did not finish eating all the leaves, and after the third day, new growth of leaves formed.”

Then he turned his sights on surrounding farms. He demonstrated to his neighbors the beneficial effects of NPV spray in the palay farms of his fellow farmers in his cluster.  After several days, they were so happy to find many dead worms.

Quimpo’s experiment is highly significant not only in Negros or even the Philippines, but worldwide. Droughts often result in outbreaks of various plant pests and diseases such as rodents, rice black bug, locust, armyworms and other sucking insects that usually attack farmlands during and immediately after droughts.

With the end of the recent El Niño, armyworms attacked the agricultural fields of Murcia, Silay, Candoni, Cádiz, Escalante and Kabankalan.

Armyworms feed on food crops at night. When the food supply is gone, the horde invades a new site. Hence, the name “armyworm.” They can destroy an entire plant in just one evening, and can produce as many as three generations in a year.

The Philippines is the collateral damage to the developed countries’ carbon emissions that contribute to the worsening climate changes. One of global warming’s dire effects are more frequent flash floods and mudslides, prolonged droughts that to natural disasters such as pest infestations.

Quimpo is one of 75 men and women farmers and scientists who collaborated in using local natural resources in the Science and Technology Program for the Development of a Sustainable Corn-based Farming System at the Negros State College of Agriculture in Kabankalan. The original NPV strain came from the Moises Padilla farm of Fely Torrefranca.

Scientist Armando Abaño discovered NPV during a Farmers Field School on Rice that he conducted in 2009. Abaño is the Corn Integrated Pest Management Specialist of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist-Negros Occidental. FFS farmer graduate Loreto Leaño collected the NPV while fellow graduate Edith Gallardo cultured the strain.

Abaño’s co-trainer, Andy Carampatana, made the NPV solution more potent by adding more dead and mashed armyworms with less water. Carampatana works for the Kabankalan City Agriculture Office. The Carampatana principle hews to homeopathic concept that “like cures like.” The cure for a venomous snake bite is anti-venin, which as we know came from snake venom.

To digress a bit, homeopathy dates back 200 years to the work of Samuel Hahnemann, a German doctor. Hahnemann argued that any substance that produces a symptom in a healthy person can cure that symptom in a sick person. The International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements recommends homeopathic bio-controls as a method for organic pest management.

I applaud OPA and our local governments in this collaboration to protect our organic (and even non-organic) agriculture through the use of local natural biological resources. The province is now ready to mitigate the effects of new El Niños. 

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