Fri, 23 Oct 2020

BioCon: Agriculture's natural defense

Philippine Information Agency
18 Sep 2020, 20:38 GMT+10

BUTUAN CITY, Sept. 18 -- Pests can be annoying oftentimes. It destroys the habitat of other organisms as well as its natural resources leading to the destruction of food and shelter to native species in a certain area. However, this can be restricted, through the use of available pest control techniques in different approaches.

With its goal to strengthen the crop protection through biological, ecological, and human resource development approach, the Regional Crop Protection Center (RCPC) established in the year 2015, under the Department of Agriculture - Caraga Integrated Laboratory Division (ILD), in the municipality of Trento, Agusan del Sur, applied a strategy that uses biological pest control technique, which is less costly and cheaper than any methods of Integrated Pest Management to give protection to the crop, safer to the environment, multiply easily in the soil and leaving no residual problem.

The RCPC prompted this initiative anchoring to its objective which is to develop, promote, and implement sustainable biological control technologies. Generating pest management strategies through the Local Government Units (LGUs) which are adopted directly to the field of every farmer. Also, this serves as a diagnostic clinic for crop pests and disease, giving technical assistance to target farmers.

Science Research Specialist II of RCPC ILD Trento, Maricel Didal, stressed the importance of biological control agents (BCAs) that it must be introduced to the larger scope of farmers in the region as it is considered as the best alternative to pesticides, efficient and safe for human and also its environment, and most especially beneficial action for parasitoid, pathogen, and predators in managing pest and their damage.

"We have four laboratories for the mass production of biological control agents such as Metarhizium anisopliae, Trichogramma sp., Trichoderma sp., and Earwig," said Didal.

Metarhizium anisopliae is an entomopathogenic fungus that controls the population of Rice black bug (RBB), locust, mosquitoes, soil termites, to name a few. It was reported to infect approximately 200 species of insects and other arthropods. The rate of application of Metarhizium is 50 packs or 200 grams per pack per hectare.

Moreover, Trichogramma sp. is a genus of minute polyphagous wasps that controls the population corn's most prevalent enemy, the corn borer. The wasp larvae kill pests before they damage plants by consuming their eggs. They are shipped while still parasitized in the host eggs.

Trichoderma sp. is one of the most common fungal antagonists which have a high competitive ability and capacity to produce a broad spectrum of antibiotics. It is also a good source of cellulose, a natural agent that hastens the decomposition of plants and other organic materials. For its application, 30-100 g. diluted to 10 liters of water and drench per tree for moist soil and 30-100 g. diluted to 15L of water and drench per tree for dried soil.

Further, earwig has two cultured species namely Euborellia annulata, a potential predator also of corn borer, and Chelisoches morio, a potential predator of coconut lead beetle and Brontispa longissima. Euborella annulata are elongated and flattened insects with mobile and telescopic abdomen extended in a pair of forceps. Effective in searching prey, climbing the corn plants at night and frequently feeding pray on the proximal part of the leaves. Meanwhile, Chelisoches morio is a wingless organism that has large posterior pincers. Unlike Euborella, Chelisoches are active at all times of the day, running over leaves in search of food.

These four biological control agents are distributed to the different provinces of the region for free to the farmers as facilitated by the Provincial and Municipal LGUs. RCPC also caters walk-in clients and request through formal letter.

"Since 2015, we have been giving free BCAs to multiple recipients already through our partner LGUs. They will be the one to facilitate on giving BCAs to farmer-cooperators or associations," Didal added.

Reaching a wider scope, RCPC welcome organizations, associations, and farmers who voluntarily go to the Center for training about BCAs, and LGUs who are willing to establish their village level laboratory for faster and bigger mass production of BioCon.

"PLGU Surigao del Sur already created their laboratory situated at the Provincial Agriculture Office. They have been producing since, benefiting their farmers," Didal said.

Conservation wise, biological control agents are not just mere organisms that exist with no good effect in agriculture, landscapes, and forests however "it tells us otherwise for its cost-effective, self-sustaining technique of managing pests that invade our plants and their natural habitat," she added. Indeed, nature's gift for defense. (Kent Warren Fugoso, DA13-RAFIS/PIA Caraga)

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