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Small pest a big threat to rice industry in PNG

Of all the challenges that growing local rainfed rice in Papua New Guinea presents, the potentially biggest problem is roughly the size of your fingernail.

Insects pose a significant threat to PNG realising its full potential to produce commercial, domestically grown rice in PNG according to Trukai National Rice Development Manager, Humphrey Saese.

“As far as ideal growing environments, the best quality rice is grown in temperate climates such as in Australia and the United States where they enjoy freedom from multiple pest pressures and longer daylengths,” he explained.

 “The bulk of the farmers, however, are in the tropics and they often face multiple challenges posed by varying factors that significantly limit yields and quality of the rice grown. PNG fits into this second category.”

There are over 100 species of insect recorded that attack rice, “and some of the dreaded ones have their home in our country,” Mr Saese added.

 “Amongst these are the Brown Planter Hopper, or BPH for short, which has a recorded history in other parts of the world of causing extensive damage to crops, impacting on food security and causing significant loss of income to rice growers in countries where rice is an important crop.”

With favourable conditions, such as temperature, moisture and well fertilized crop, the insect will multiply very quickly and spread extensively across the rice crop before even the farmer or grower can notice as they feed, breed and multiply under the cover of the crop. The problem becomes more noticeable when pockets of areas start to turn brown and weakened crop starts to collapse.

Trukai has worked tirelessly on solutions to this problem, driven by previous and ongoing research around sourcing pest tolerant rice genetics and testing them for suitability to the PNG production systems.

“It is in this way that continuation of our rice research is a critical factor in establishing a sustainable local industry,” he said.

“For all the hard work that goes in, none of us would want insects to take all the goodies and leave behind an empty plate.”
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