Essequibo farmers to be given assistance with paddy bug infestation

As Rice Board moves to put measures in place

Agri. Minister to visit farmers in the Region shortly

Following several concerns raised by a number of rice farmers along the Essequibo Coast about sever paddy bug infestations, recently appointed Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha held a meeting earlier today with officials from the Guyana Rice Development Board.

This meeting came after Minister Mustapha would have met with various Heads of Departments from the Ministry on Thursday last to get a status report of their respective departments. It was during that meeting that the Minister instructed the head of the Rice Board, Mr. Nizam Hassan to look into the issue and prepare a detailed report on what is happening and what can be done to assist farmers.

Minister Mustapha informed the officials that this is a matter that needs to be handled urgently, as the rice industry remains one of the country’s largest industries.

“The interest of rice farmers and all other farmers are of utmost importance to this government. We need to work immediately to solve this issue in Essequibo. Millions of dollars in losses are at stake and we must ensure that our rice farmers do not suffer. They are already dealing with the financial hardship of the Coronavirus,” Minister Mustapha said.

Rice farmers have complained that the paddy bugs have been swarming in abandoned fields waiting to destroy the rice crop which is flowering at this time. It was reported that close to 33,000 acres of rice are under threat as Essequibo Coast rice farmers are once again grappling with the invasion of paddy bugs, which they fear could destroy the crop if swift action is not taken to get the infestation under control.

GRDB has since issued an advisory to guide farmers on ways they can control and minimize the chances of paddy bugs destroying their crops.

Management strategies:

  1. Get rid of alternate hosts like birdseed grass, red rice, volunteers and schoonard grass.
  2. Monitor with a sweep net or visually, in the morning, on alternate days from 30 days after sowing (DAS) to 65 DAS and DAILY from 65 DAS up to the time of harvesting.
  3. Kill the invading adults within a day. (Adults invade at dusk and dawn so monitoring the next morning will inform the status of the bugs.)
  4. Use the threshold of 1 bug in 2 sweeps or 1 bug per meter square as a guide for knowing when to spray.

GRDB General, Nizam Hassan said that the Board has put several measures in place to deal with the infestation.

“These measures include the monitoring for paddy bugs by Extension and Paddy Bug Management Officers in the various regions and the employing ‘spraymen’ to spray for the bugs when required.   We will be providing the chemicals to spray in addition to standing the costs to have these fields sprayed,” Mr. Hassan said.

Hassan further stated that in some cases, GRDB provides the mist blowers used to spray fields for paddy bugs.

Senior staff of GRDB will conducting field visits to meet with farmers and support the Extension and Paddy Bug Management Officers. 

Persons are also asked to contact GRDB’s Regional office on 232-1395 for further information.

In 2019, the GRDB had to intensify its spraying programme to assist in managing the paddy bug infestation.

GRDB Entomologist, Viviane Baharally explained that the paddy bug has a lot of natural enemies, inclusive of spiders, beetles and other bugs. As a result, Baharally said when farmers do preventative spraying, they kill other insects that often feed on the paddy bug, which then allows the pest to thrive unhindered.

“When they move one by one in the fields, those natural enemies can take care of them. When they invade by the millions, that’s when the farmers have to take care of it. The important thing is to know when the invasion occurs so you can kill them before they have a chance to spread,” Baharally had explained.

Officials present at the meeting were GRDB General Manager, Nizam Hassan, GRDB Chief Scientist and Plant Breeder, Dr. Mahendra Persaud and GRDB Entomologist, Viviane Baharally.

During a recent visit to flood affected areas in Upper Corentyne region, Minister Mustapha expressed great concern about the paddy bug infestation and told reporters that he has a team in place to assess the situation. The Minister also plans to visit the Region soon to get a firsthand look at the situation and see how best government can assist.