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Salceda wants integrated pest management to be flagship program of DA as armyworms threaten PH onion sector; House agri vice chair calls pest control “new normal” in climate change

October 1st, 2022

Amid reports of fresh onion shortages in fastfood chains, and the continuing infestation of armyworms in onion farms in North Luzon, House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) is calling on President Marcos, who sits as Secretary of Agriculture, to prioritize integrated pest management as a flagship program of the Department of Agriculture, calling it “one of the more successful agriculture programs in the country.”

“Integrated pest management will be the new normal in climate change. As temperatures rise and climate conditions change, some pests will breed faster and become more resistant. Agriculturists in North Luzon are already pointing out that pests like armyworms are becoming stronger every season, because of, not despite pesticides,” Salceda said.

“So, I am recommending to the DA that we classify integrated pest management as a flagship program of the DA, so that it’s not buried as just one small program under the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI),” Salceda explained.

Integrated pest management is the use of multiple techniques, including multicropping, biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties to control and prevent infestation.

Among Salceda’s recommendations are to have at least one farm school offering integrated pest management in every province, and to ensure that all municipal agriculturists are trained and can eventually train farmers on integrated pest management.

Salceda cited research which indicates that integrated pest management caused farmers to spend less on pesticides and have higher incomes.

“There is strong evidence to suggest that the first integrated pest management school in 1994 helped its farmer beneficiaries reduce pesticide costs.”

Infestation is “new normal” under climate change

Armyworms have continued to ravage onion farms in provinces such as Pangasinan. Last year’s infestation damaged as much as 212 hectares of onion farms. A 2016 infestation caused as much as 1000 hectares to affected.

“This year’s infestation appears to be growing worse, and could approach 2016 levels. That was also one year when onion smuggling got so bad, we passed a law declaring large-scale agri smuggling as economic sabotage,” Salceda added.

“This could get bad. And I’m very sorry to say, because of climate change, loss of forests, intensified use of pesticides, and loss of genetic diversity in crops, we will get infestations every year. Part of climate change adaptation is not just preparing for disasters. Pest management will be key to ensuring we have enough food amid climate change.”

“I think fighting infestation will be the new normal. In the South, we tend to suffer from viruses on our rice, bananas, and other crops. So, it’s going to be a continuing national challenge. That’s why it needs to be a flagship program,” Salceda said.

As a cautionary tale, Salceda cited the case of Albay’s abaca industry in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

“In Albay, we know very well how pests can impoverish entire generations. There are records that show us to be the richest province in the early 1900s because of abaca exports. By the 1960s, the abaca sector had already collapsed, in part because of pests. We never recovered from that. Let that be a warning to the onion and garlic sectors in North Luzon, our fruit export sector in Mindanao, and our sugar sector in Visayas.”

“Pests will continue to grow stronger in this changing global climate. We either adapt, or we see entire crop sectors wiped out.

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