CATARMAN, Northern Samar - Rat infestation in rice fields has been reported by farmers in various towns in this province.
Northern Samar assistant provincial agriculturist Neciforo Rubenecia, Jr., said many Northern Samar towns have been severely affected by rat infestation this cropping season and as much as over 30 percent of rice harvests have been hit by the pests. He added that many farmers have incurred farm losses because of said rat infestation.
Rubenecia disclosed that the traditional farming called payatak system has contributed a lot to the rat infestation.
He explained that the crude land preparation practiced by said system does not destroy and eliminate rat sanctuaries, nests or shelters in rice fields wherein the rodents can easily breed and multiply.
The provincial agriculturist further explained that traditional rice farming does not practice farm maintenance and weeding or the removing of unwanted or wild plants in rice fields. As a result, the rat population in rice fields is not checked, he said.
Rubenecia disclosed that the rat infestation was lesser in areas covered by the Help for Catubig Agricultural Advancement Project (HCAAP), and in some areas no rat infestation has been observed because many farmers have abandoned the payatak practice, having resorted to modern methods of rice growing. He added that the thorough land preparation of rice fields, farm maintenance and the removing of unwanted plants in rice fields have effectively checked the rat population and have, in fact, driven away the pests.
Engr. Amadeo Montejo, Northern Samar provincial irrigation officer and HCAAP project manager told reporters in an interview that more or less 25 percent of the 4,550 hectares covered by HCAAP has been developed already and nearly one-fourth of the 1,303 farmer-beneficiaries of the project have already practiced modern rice growing and have increased their farm harvests by 300 to 400 percent.
Montejo disclosed that his men in the field, in coordination with the Department of Agriculture and other concerned government agencies, have been organizing HCAAP farmer-beneficiaries and conducting farmers' field schools to teach farmers about the modern way of rice farming.
He also informed that the HCAAP is one of the biggest irrigation projects in Eastern Visayas, covering the Northern Samar towns, Catubig and Las Navas.