Rice Paddies Destroyed by Persistent Snails

Nearly 20 hectares of rice paddies in Svay Rieng’s Kompong Ro district have been destroyed in recent days by a resilient species of snail that’s posing a threat to the nation’s most critical crop, ac­cording to Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun.

Because the female golden apple snail can lay more than 1,200 eggs a month, population explosions of the pest—which is native to South America—are a looming men­ace, Chan Sarun said on Sun­day.

“That’s why we have encouraged farmers to catch golden snails and its [eggs] and we give them awards,” he said, referring to a policy announced last week that pays farmers 300 riel for every kilogram of the snail they collect and 50 riel for every egg-blanketed leaf found in cultivated rice fields.

Chan Chesda, agriculture de­partment director for Kampot prov­ince—where there are snail infestations in Chhuk district—said that local children are being en­couraged to snatch up as many of the invasive species as possible by hand.

“Chhuk district officials will ask school students when they are free from school to go and collect snails and its [eggs],” said Chan Chesda, adding that the youngsters won’t get paid.

Prum Rina, Svay Rieng provincial cabinet chief, said that farmers collected more than one ton of snails and 10 sacks of eggs found in paddies in Kompong Ro district last week.

The snail haul was torched by provincial workers on a heap of diesel-covered firewood.

Scientists say that one of the reasons why the golden apple snail has proven such a pervasive pest is that the creature has a brachial respiration system, which permits it to breathe under water, as well as a lung that breathes air.

This adaptation gives the snail, which destroys paddy seedlings, a broad range of feeding spots.


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