Corn hybrids originally developed to fight Asiatic corn borer also found resistant to newly emerged fall armyworm that is just devastating Philippines’ corn farms

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North Luzon farmers have found a hybrid corn variety originally developed to fight the highly devastating Asiatic corn borer to be similarly resistant to the just emerging fall armyworm that is now infesting Philippines’ corn farms.

A relatively new pest in the Philippines that has already invaded Southeast Asia from its origin in America, fall armyworm has become a major concern for the industry as the extent of actual damage to corn crops is feared from trivial to significant.

The VT Double PRO Dekalb hybrids, which has a biotechnology trait that controls lepidopteran pest Bacillus thuringiensis (TB), is reportedly also bringing resistance to the newly emerged fall armyworm, farmers claimed.

The VT Double Pro of Bayer has a dual mode of action for protection against fall armyworm, corn borer, corn earworm, and other above-ground pests notorious for wreaking havoc on corn crops leading to huge yield losses.

“We observed that some corn hybrids had around 13 to 17 percent damage due to fall armyworm, but the Dekalb VT Double Pro hybrids planted at the same time had less than 3 percent damage,” according to Rolex Martinez, a farmer in Barangay Swan, Pudtol, Apayao.

He planted the VT Double Pro Dekalb hybrids in 7 hectares during the previous season.

These Dekalb hybrid corn seeds are currently the only seed product certified by the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) as plant-incorporated protectant for control of fall armyworm.  With other hybrids not having the technology, corn farmers were not as lucky as they tried to apply different types of insecticides to no avail.

The fall armyworm has become a major concern for corn farmers since it emerged just in June 2019.

“Some say that the damage of fall armyworm is not yet very big. Let’s not wait for the damage to turn huge until help to farmers is extended. We are waiting for government to immediately download to farmers whatever solution has been found effective,” said PMFI President Roger Navarro.

Many farmers are clueless on how to control fall armyworm, considering it is just a new pest.  An old pest, though, known only as “armyworm” before was said to be already existing in the Philippines in the last decades.

“We are confused on what to do. We don’t know how to control this pest.  We have tried all kinds of pesticides—the strongest ones. We found these useless. We hope the government will recommend to us whatever is best to control this pest,” said Martinez.

In Barangay Duminit, Cauayan City, Isabela, Art Cacal, a farmer and barangay chairman who grows white glutinous corn, experienced huge damage from fall armyworm from his latest harvest.

“Fall armyworm destroyed 100 percent of our harvest because the pest ate up all the leaves,” said Cacal.

Similar to the situation of Martinez, corn farmers in Cauayan City also tried using different types of insecticides just to combat the pest.  But none of them was able to prevent the damage to their crops. Cacal mentioned that there were several farmers who had up to 50 percent yield loss at harvest time due to the corn pest.

On the other hand, Cacal added that farmers who planted the Dekalb corn hybrids last season did not encounter the same damaging fate.

The Department of Agriculture gave away fertilizers to farmers in Cauayan City in order to counter destruction of fall armyworm.

“We received a total of 149 bags in fertilizer for our entire barangay because DA gave 3 bags of fertilizer per hectare, but it didn’t have much good result for fall armyworm,” said Cacal.

White glutinous corn is preferred to be planted by some farmers in Cauayan City since it is a short two-month crop compared to yellow corn’s four-month planting duration.

Cropping may reach up to five times a year leading to quicker cash turnover. Traders or buyers of white corn used as food (grilled corn) intentionally travel to Cauayan City just to haul white corn when Nueva Ecija supply gets depleted.

However, the growing concern from fall armyworm infestation is making farmers growing white corn to shift to planting yellow corn.

They are likely to use the Dekalb VT Double Pro corn hybrid varieties due to their resistance to this emerging key corn pest.

“Our team in the field has observed numerous cases of fall armyworm damage in major corn growing areas all over the country.  And we feel sorry for our farmers who had the yields and income reduced significantly due to this corn pest,” said Erwin Vibal, head of marketing for Bayer CropScience.

“Fortunately, we are able to address this key concern with our lineup of Dekalb corn hybrids that have proven built-in resistance against fall armyworm.”

Based on the current list of Fertilizer and Pestcide Authority (FPA) for registered products to control fall armyworm, Bayer’s VT Double PRO is the only Plant-Incorporated Protectant in the approved registry while the rest are insecticide application.

“We are looking forward to the coming season because our Dekalb seeds provide much more convenience and assurance to our corn farmers from fall armyworm.  We also ensure that the agronomic characteristics of our hybrids are adaptable to different growing conditions leading to high yields and income,” added Vibal.

Aside from their corn hybrid varieties, Vibal mentioned that Bayer is also launching Yeoval next month, which is a crop protection product that can help address the concern for farmers planting white glutinous corn or sweet corn.

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