THE BUREAU of Plant Industry (BPI) of the Department of Agriculture has ordered its regional offices (ROs) to monitor plants, especially rice, for possible infestation of brown plant-hopper as a result of the prevailing drought. In an advisory dated April 1, BPI said the alert was issued following the reported armyworm infestation on onion in Nueva Ecija, particularly in the towns of General Natividad, Rizal, Quezon and Bongabon, that has partially damaged 726 hectares, and “considering the El Niño/drought affecting concerned provinces wherein pest outbreak will likely to occur.” The ROs are tasked to conduct thorough land preparation, plant rice varieties that are resistant to brown plant-hopper, and practice synchronous planting or planting in the same dates, before crop establishment. For crops at vegetative stage to reproductive phases, the BPI ordered field monitoring to identify risks in advance, to follow a recommended nitrogen fertilizer application, draining the field for three to four days during infestation to reduce the pests population, spraying repellant (biopesticide/botanical pesticide) such as neem oil to susceptible varieties, and judiciously applying of insecticides particularly insect grower regulator. The BPI noted that insecticides should be used as a last resort and only when needed to conserve natural enemies. After harvest, the BPI said that there must be field sanitation, practice fallow period and crop rotation. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio