THE Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) is validating reports of grain bug infestation in some rice farms in Pontevedra and La Carlota City.

Provincial Agriculturist Japhet Masculino said reports from the local agriculture offices of the two localities initially showed a small portion of affected rice farms.

Grain bug is a pest, different from rice black bug, which infests rice fields during milking stage and spreads rapidly.

OPA records showed that in November last year, grain bug infestation has caused at least P8-million damage to rice plantations in Sipalay City.

Masculino said grain bug infestation started in other provinces in 2009 as he noted that there might be presence of leguminous weeds in Negros Occidental which enabled the migration of the pest.

“From one infested area, this pest possibly migrated to other areas especially with rice farms that are in milking stage,” he said, adding that the grain bug infestation in Sipalay was already contained.

This is the first grain bug infestation report in the province this year.

Once validated, the OPA will suggest immediate application of metarhizium anisopliae to contain the infestation and allay its possible adverse effects.

Masculino also attributed the occurrence of pest and disease among crops to climate change.

He said the province currently has climate field schools among selected sites which enable farmers to prepare by forecasting weather as well as temperature and rainfall level.

“Our farmers should maintain vigilance. By always monitoring their farm especially during milking stage, they can immediately spray metarhizium if needed,” Masculino said, stressing that it is important to also maintain cleanliness in the farm as weeds host insects and pest like grain bug.

In December last year, the Provincial Government included farms affected by pest and diseases for enrollment under the Negros First Universal Crop Insurance Program, which is implemented in partnership with the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation.

For this year, Masculino said they already submitted a proposal to allocate P10 million to cover the enrollment premium of local farmers, at P840 each.

The fund, on top of the remaining allocation last year, is up for the approval of the Provincial Board, he added.