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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Brown plant hoppers spell ruin for rural rice paddies

Brown plant hoppers spell ruin for rural rice paddies

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A spike in the pest’s numbers have caused devastation to farmers’ crops in  three provinces that border Vietnam

HENG CHIVOAN

A boy shows a brown plant hopper on a blade of rice in Kandal province on Wednesday.

BROWN plant hoppers are wreaking havoc across Cambodia's southeast as chemical fertilisers have nearly obliterated the insects' natural predators, allowing the population to expand.

Nhim Vanda, first deputy president of the National Committee for Disaster Management, said that the most serious destruction of rice paddies has occurred in Takeo, Svay Rieng and Prey Veng provinces, while Kampong Speu and Kandal provinces have had some problems with the pests.

"There are more brown plant hoppers this year because animals that usually eat them like fish, frogs, lizards and snakes have been virtually wiped out by chemicals used in farming," Nhim Vanda said.

Brown plant hoppers have destroyed 500 hectares of rice paddy in three districts near the Vietnamese border, including Svay Chrum, Kampong Ror  and Chantrea district in Svay Rieng province, said provincial Governor Chieng Am.

"We have used nets to catch the insects and we have caught more than 34 tonnes since July," Chieng Am said. "Last year we only caught 10 tonnes in a two-month period."

Chieng Am said that the way to catch brown plant hoppers is by using nets, lamps and chemical sprays. "The authorities have encouraged people to catch the insects," Chieng Am said. "Authorities have also spent US$1,900 on nets and have provided farmers with rice seeds to replace the damaged 500 hectares of paddy."

Netting the pests

Hean Vanhan, deputy director of the Agronomy and Land Improvement Department at the Ministry of Agriculture, said that the department has attempted to crack down on the brown plant hoppers by filling rice fields with water to prevent the insects from getting onto the rice plants and by using nets to catch them.

"The insects have come from Vietnam and it is difficult to control them as they are hiding in the rice plants," Hean Vanhan said. "However, we have been successful in keeping the number of the insects down."

Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Development for Agriculture Center, said that using chemicals against the brown plant hoppers has not been successful because they damage land and water and kill animals.

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