- The Straits Times
The paddy fields of Malaysia just can’t catch a break.
A few months after news emerged of the fields at the beach town of Sekinchan being destroyed and damaged by tourists, Penang’s paddy fields are now facing a different threat which affects the supply of grain.
The enemy this time?
That’s right, rice-field rats, which can produce five to 10 offspring a month, have been decimating the crops of Penang, The Star reported.
The rice farmers of Paya Keladi, Kepala Batas in Penang have suffered losses amounting of around RM$500000 ($123622) this season alone due to the infestation.
The rats (Rattus argentiventer) have managed to ruin nearly 29 hectares of crops so far, affecting 50 farmers in the process.
The rats have managed to evade traps and poison thus far, and since they are only active after dusk, the farmers’ only hope are the natural predators of the rats: the common barn owl.
They have constructed bird nests at paddy fields to attract the nocturnal flying predators in hopes that they will be able to get rid of the rats.
“Help us. We are farming at a loss. When our young paddy plants started to flourish, the rats give them no chance to grow. From the 40 tonnes I produce every season, I estimate only getting about 20 tonnes this harvest”, paddy farmer Suhaidi Hashim was quoted in the Malay Mail.
Apparently, the infestation began after the floods last November which impacted the northern states of Kedah, Perlis and Penang.
These rats allegedly followed the floodwaters and ended up in the paddy fields via irrigation canals.
Rice-field rats are one of the most destructive pests to rice crops worldwide, as they have a habit of devouring the white pith inside young paddy stalks, leading to the crop having no chance of producing any grain.