Crops Put at Risk by Swarms Of Butterflies

A generation of butterflies has arisen from a recent infestation of nettle caterpillars on a Koh Kong province palm oil tree plantation, mounting what farmers and ag­ron­omists say could become a serious threat to Cambodian agriculture.

With assistance from the agronomy and land improvement de­part­ment at the Ministry of Agri­cul­ture, the Mong Reththy Group, which owns the plantation, has be­gun spraying insecticide to control the cat­erpillar, also known as dar­na tri­ma, infestation, company officials said Monday.

Mong Reththy Group Deputy Director Tann Molivann said the sit­­uation became a grave worry once the caterpillars began turning into but­terflies last weekend.

“Things got worse when the cat­erpillars turned into butterflies that swarmed the plantation. We are wor­ried since these butterflies will produce offspring,” increasing the threat they pose, he said.

Koh Kong provincial Governor Yuth Phouthang said he was una­ware of any infestation in his prov­ince.

Agronomy and land improvement Deputy Director Hean Van­horn said the development worried him.

“I just got the letter from Mong Reththy asking us for help. We will work out a way to help,” he said, ad­ding that crops are at risk anywhere the butterflies may go.

Hean Vanhorn, who is also senior crop protection expert, said his de­partment is ready to contain the problem, as the government had charged it with tackling the next out­break.

The Council of Ministers has drafted a sub-decree that would al­low agriculture experts to inspect food delivered by air freight and is drafting two more to strengthen food security at border crossings.

Yang Saing Koma, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Agricultural Study and Develop­ment, said he was worried by the new infestation, and called on the government to play closer attention to import security.

Last year, almost 500 hectares of newly planted rice paddy were destroyed by a golden snail outbreak in Kampot, Takeo and Svay Rieng provinces, at a high cost to farmers.


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