The Ministry of Agriculture has issued a directive to all provincial agriculture departments instructing them to warn rice farmers about the arrival of the brown planthopper, a tiny insect that sucks juices out of plants and infects them with viruses.
Preap Visarto, acting director of the ministry’s crop protection department, said Monday that 5 tons of brown planthoppers had already been removed from about 2,500 hectares of rice seedling beds in Svay Rieng province since the beginning of July.
“Usually July and August is the season when brown planthoppers arrive at the rice fields, so we have to stay alert and take action,” he said, adding that the pest had been reported in 72 villages across Svay Rieng province.
Cambodian farmers tend to plant rice seedlings around the month of May as the rainy season gets under way.
Agricultural experts say that brown planthoppers can migrate away from areas where pesticide use is ample, such as Vietnam, to areas where there is less and they can survive better.
Cambodia has had problems with brown planthoppers before. During the harvests of 2006 and 2007, outbreaks were reported in Kampot, Kandal, Svay Rieng and Takeo provinces, affecting thousands of hectares of rice paddy.
So far this year, no reports of the insect have arisen in other provinces.
According the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, farmers can fight against the brown planthopper by ensuring that seedlings are uninfected when planted and using biological control agents.
Yi Kimthan, program director for the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture, said that the heavy use of pesticides across the border in Vietnam had meant that the natural predators of brown planthoppers had been reduced, allowing the insect to multiply.
“This destroys the rice,” he said, adding that brown grasshoppers tend to absorb lots of water from fields while feeding on the rice crop.