Eels that are supposed to be delicacies, and command high price in the market and restaurant have now become borrowing pests in the rice fields in the Science City of Munoz, Nueva Ecija.
Rice farmers in this town reported that eels have been burrowing in their fields resulting in irrigation water seepage and affecting nutrient and weed management.
Said eels nowadays are becoming pests as they bore near dikes letting the water seep in through these holes which are connected to holes in adjacent field, according to farmer Adriano Comilang, Sr.
He lamented that for two years, irrigating his field had been less effective as the water collected in his field spills over to the neighboring farm. “With the holes made by eels, my field gets drained, while my adjacent farm is filled with water,” Comilang said.
The rice paddy eel, identified as Monopterus albus, locally known as igat, palos or kiwit is a nocturnal fish that feeds on fishes, crustaceans and other invertebrates.
It can be found it rivers, lakes, ponds, marshes, swamps, and drains and burrows as deep as 1.5 m during the dry season to survive dry conditions.
However, reports of eel damaged have also been received from Isabela and Negros this wet season.
PhilRice researchers said fields should not be drained nor flood as water is critical in nutrient uptake of plants and weed control. Right amount of water supply ensures good crop establishment, seeding vigor, normal crop growth, development and yield.
Comilang, as management strategies, uses electric maps, covers holes, or destroys dikes.
Gregorio Gaspuz, another farmer, rebuilds dikes in another area or pours molluscides into holes to force the eels out. He also tried continuous irrigation to prevent his field from drying.
However, the two farmers found the practices tedious because eels burrow and reproduce very fast.
To produce long-term solutions, Leonardo V. Marquez and Fe A. dela Peña, PhilRice crop specialists, plan to conduct a study on the management of rice paddy eels.
DA-PhilRice is a government-owned and –controlled corporation that aims at developing high-yielding, cost-reducing, and environment-friendly technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos. Ester Z. Gallardo, PSciJourn MegaManila