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Coconut farmers learn to use insects vs pests

John Unson (The Philippine Star) - November 25, 2013 - 2:41pm

NORTH COTABATO, Philippines - Farmers in North Cotabato and Kidapawan City are using insects to fight the virulent leaf beetles ravaging their coconut farms.

“This is my first time to try this. I find this quite strange, but I know this can help because it’s our provincial government letting us use this as a safer way of eradicating these annoying coconut leaf beetles destroying our coco palms,” Reynaldo, a 54-year old farmer in President Roxas town, said in Cebuano dialect.

The Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAG) started distributing early this week thousands of parasitoids to farmers in North Cotabato’s  President Roxas, Makilala, M’lang, and Midsayap towns, and in Kidapawan City, where there has been a high prevalence of coco leaf beetle (Brontispa Longissima) infestation.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Talino-Mendoza, whose office is leading the campaign for the massive use of parasitoids to eradicate the leaf beetles instead of using harmful pesticides said OPAG will monitor extensively the progress of the initiative, which farmers found so peculiar.

The wide use of parasitoid insects in organic farming is nothing new. It is a strategy which utilizes parasitical insects, as invasive species, to feed on beetle eggs and moving bodies, eventually killing the “hosts” insects.

Mendoza and officials of the OPAGy distributed 4,480 parasitoid insects to local farmers since they launched the project, which aims to address the massive coco leaf beetle infestation in many parts of the province.

In-depth studies by the Department of Agriculture showed that there are parasitoid insects that kills coco leaf beetles fast by laying their eggs on bettle egg mounds and larva of host insects.

“Such natural process will wipe out the beetle population in areas where these parasitoids are set free,” Mendoza said.

In May 2012, the DA’s Central Mindanao regional office reported that 2.71 percent of the 44,672.7 hectares of coconut farms in Region 12 have been ravaged by Brontispa beetles, which attacks young coco palms.

A Moro farmer, Samier, 60, said he is certain that the use of parasitoids to fight Brontispa beetles is the best solution to their problem.

“It is not expensive and toxic. We are thankful to the provincial government of North Cotabato for embarking on this initiative,” he said in the Maguindanaon dialect.
 

A MORO BRONTISPA BRONTISPA LONGISSIMA CENTRAL MINDANAO DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE EMMYLOU TALINO-MENDOZA IN MAY INSECTS NORTH COTABATO PRESIDENT ROXAS
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