Massive measures planned vs. leaf beetles in S. Cotabato coco plantations

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/27 Apr) – The provincial government of South Cotabato is planning to embark on a massive culture of parasitoid insects that could help counter the continuing onslaught of the destructive leaf beetle or Brontispa longissima among plantation coconuts in the area.

Reynaldo Legaste, South Cotabato provincial agriculturist, said they are sending a three-man team to the Philippine Coconut Authority’s (PCA) research center and laboratory in Davao City on Thursday to train on the culture of the Brontispa parasitoids.

He said studies showed that the use of the parasitoids is so far the fastest and most effective approach in neutralizing leaf beetle pests, which had been monitored in coconut farms in Koronadal City and in four municipalities in the province.

“We’re currently focusing our efforts in controlling this pest to avert a possible major onslaught when the summer season sets in,” he said.

Legaste said the municipal government of Tupi already declared the entire town under a state of calamity last month due to the Brontispa infestation, which has affected more than 9,000 coconut trees in the area.

He said Tupi officials decided to make a calamity declaration to help effectively contain the infestation, which already affected almost 34 percent of the standing coconut crops in Barangays Polonuling, Tubeng, Crossing Rubber, Bolol Mala and Lunen.

In Koronadal City, Legaste said at least 10 of its 27 barangays were already affected by the infestation but the city government has yet to declare a state of calamity.

Aside from Tupi and Koronadal City, he said the pest was also found to be spreading among plantation coconuts in Banga, Tantangan and Polomolok towns.

Legaste said the Tupi municipal agriculture office initially sent two of their personnel to the PCA in Davao City earlier this month to undergo a two-day training on Brontispa culture.

He said the local governments of Banga, Tantangan, Polomolok and Koronadal Coty are each sending a staff member to join the Thursday training at the PCA-Davao research facility.

“The training covers modules on how to culture the parasitoids and various methods in controlling Brontispa infestation using the parasitoid insects,” he said.

Legaste said they adopted the culture and use of the parasitoid insects in controlling Brontispa due to their proven effectiveness and efficiency in terms of costs.

“The method (of culturing the parasitoids) is very simple and it also requires the use of simple apparatus. It’s also very safe to use because we will not be dealing with insecticides or any chemical here,” he said.

Brontispa longissima is a leaf beetle that feeds on young leaves and damages seedlings and mature coconut palms. If not effectively contained, the pest may spread rapidly and eventually delay and reduce coconut production.

Two years ago, PCA experts based in Davao City discovered at least two parasitoid insects that have proven very effective in neutralizing Brontispa.

The “two indigenous small insects parasitize Brontispa by laying their eggs in the larva or pupa of the pest,” the PCA noted in a statement. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)