SAN JOSE CITY, Nueva Ecija--Agriculture officials are now conducting dialogues with onion farmers in this province with regard to the destruction being caused by army worms to their crops.

Ariel Alejo, provincial crop protection officer of the Office of Provincial Agriculture (OPA), on Wednesday said their office is threshing out with farmers all assistance that the government can extend to affected farmers in different towns and cities of Nueva Ecija.

"We will try to salvage whatever we can (referring to  crops),” Alejo said.

Violeta Vargas, city agriculturist, reported that army worms have damaged at least 1,181 hectares of onion and garlic farms as of March 4. The cost of damage was estimated at PHP139, 850,172.

"It is too fast. Those crops that are now green will all be gone tomorrow," Vargas said, adding that their monitoring showed farmers fail to contain the pests despite their efforts.

It was the first time army worms affected onion farmers here, she said, even if the pests destroyed crops in Bongabon and other Nueva Ecija areas in 2016.

Vargas said the local government is mulling the declaration of state of calamity to use funds in helping affected farmers.

Aside from San Jose City, other onion farms infested by army worms are located in Lupao; Rizal; Gen. Natividad; Laur; Bongabon; Bongabon; Carranglan; Llanera; Quezon; Talavera; Cuyapo; Science City of Muñoz; Sto. Domingo; Aliaga; Palayan City; Nampicuan; Pantabangan; Licab; Gapan City; Guimba; Gabaldon; Cabanatuan City and Gen. Tinio.

As of latest report, Alejo said, affected areas in the whole province of Nueva Ecija have reached 8,378 hectares.

Among the onion varieties in the province are yellow gannex, red creole, red shallot and spring onion, he said.

According to Alejo, farmers were advised to refrain from over-application of pesticide to onion plants, which they have been doing in attempts to kill army worms, because it would entail more problems in the future like pest immunity from the chemicals.

Farmers, he said, were also advised to rest their lands for at least two months after harvest to deny army worms of host.

To illustrate the damage, Alejo explained that farmers now harvest only 15 red bags of bulbs from a can of seeds.

A can should have produced at least 50 bags, he said.

One hectare requires eight to 10 cans of seeds at an estimated consolidated cost of PHP25,000 per can or a PHP250,000 capital per hectare, it was learned. (PNA)