Rain May Bring Worm Relief

With the onset of the rainy season, agriculture officials hope that the worst of an infestation of army worms in at least three provinces may be coming to an end.

In their wake, however, the soft-fleshed brown worms have destroyed more than 2,300 hec­tares of rice and vegetable paddies in just a few weeks and the Agriculture Ministry is continuing to issue warnings to farmers on how to fight the caterpillar invasion. “We are greatly concerned about damage to the crops,” Agriculture Minister Tao Seng Huor said Monday.

The infestation emerged in Kom­pong Cham province in early June. Since then, the worms have invaded fields in Kompong Speu and Kompong Thom, where the damage has been the worst. Agriculture Ministry agro­nomist Hean Vanhan said that of the 2,345 hectares ravaged, 2,042 were in Kompong Thom, in central Cambodia.

Agriculture officials have intervened with pesticides on about 350 hectares in Kompong Cham, Hean Vanhan said.

Last week, the ministry issued an advisory to farmers, instructing them to combat the worms by spraying pesticides on their fields or digging troughs around them and filling them with ash.

Agronomists have blamed the long dry season for the record number of army worms, so named because they move in large groups in search of plants to eat. The worms generally hatch with the first rain after their eggs are laid. After four to five weeks of feeding, the worms go underground to pupate. Flooding also makes feeding difficult and forces them underground.

Tao Seng Huor said the next problem is food shortages faced by the families of farmers who lost large crops.

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