The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) has received assistance from its international partner, the Latin-American Fund for Irrigated Rice also known as FLAR, to tackle the current infestation of paddy bugs which has been affecting farmers in all the rice-producing regions. Farmers are, however, not accepting the suggestions being put forward by the team of experts. The team spent one week in Guyana visiting rice fields and meeting with farmers.Paddy bugs in the fieldExtension Officer of the GRDB Ramlagan SinghGeneral Manager of the GRDB Nissam HassanAgriculture engineer Santiago Jaramillo CardonaRice farmer and Extension Officer of the GRDB, Ramlagan Singh told this newspaper that one week was not enough to grasp the magnitude of the problem of the infestation of the dreaded bugs.The two-man team from FLAR consists of entomologist and researcher, Dr Ed Pulver along with agricultural engineer Santiago Jaramillo Cardona.When the team met with rice farmers at Number 63 Village, some farmers explained that they have tried some of the suggestions made in the control of the dreaded paddy bugs, but those practices all failed.At the end of the one-week visit, the team put forward a report indicating the contributory factors which have caused the current infestation of party bags. They stated that a biological imbalance coming from an over-dependence and insecticides has created the conditions in which the paddy bugs are now thriving to the detriment of the rice crop. The team has suggested that an integrated pest management approach be adopted.Way forwardIn fact, Santiago Cardona stated that it is the only way forward. “The only war at this way that farmers are fighting paddy bugs is with chemicals. They need to focus on better pest management practices because insecticides are not the only answer. We need to start looking at planting dates, seed treatment and biological control to avoid excessive application of insecticides.” He said the farmers also have to take care of the natural insects that live in the rice fields. This, he added, will guarantee a balance in the ecosystem. He also stressed that the time of planting is also a critical factor in the management of paddy bugs. He also recommends that farmers first treat the paddy seeds while also placing emphasis on the time of planting.“Those who plant late are more susceptible,” the FLAR team reported. However, the farmers argued that even those that would have planted early were affected in the same way by the party bugs.RecommendationsGeneral Manager of the GRDB, Nissam Hassan noted some of the recommendations by the FLAR will be implemented by the GRBD.“Coming out of this visit, we will have a revised, revamped agronomic practices approached for our farmers. This will be rolled out almost immediately and willed through over the next few rainy seasons as we move to address the incidences of paddy bugs; not only paddy bugs but any other insect pest that may be affecting rice and also as we move to further enhance the productivity of rice being produced in Guyana.”Most of the rice in the cultivation area is heading into the flowering stage – this is when the plants are more vulnerable to the dreaded paddy bugs.According to Hassan, the bugs are being found on mares, in trenches and abundant rice fields.He added that the GRDB had commenced a programme of spraying dams and other areas where the bugs are said to be laying eggs.However, Ramlagan Singh believes that the GRDB is executing a publicity stunt.“Unfortunately, it was disclosed that the chemical finished [and] the motor-blower that they bought is minimal and cannot do the exercise,” he said.Another farmer, Hemchan Doolchand of Number 69 Village, who has 240 acres under cultivation, said he has visited all of the outlets along the upper and central Corentyne and cannot find the insecticide which the FLAR experts recommended.Meanwhile, the GRDB is encouraging farmers not to spray their fields during the young stages of rice, saying that this will encourage the build-up of the insects. The FLAR team also found that the insecticides being used are killing all insects including bugs which are natural enemies of the paddy bug. They said it might take two to three crops before normalcy can be returned.The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put a hold on aerial spraying of rice.During the last rice crop in the 52-74 area, where 15,000 acres were under rice cultivation, 25 per cent of the harvested rice had to be dumped.