Coconut leaf beetle infestation rising in Region 12

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/15 March) – Coconut leaf beetles are threatening coconut farms in Southwestern Mindanao, which have already infested at least 12 towns spread in the region’s four provinces, officials disclosed on Thursday.

Amalia Datukan, Department of Agriculture-Region 12 director, said the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and the Regional Crop Protection Center have noted the rapid Brontispa longissima infestation in parts of the region.

“Brontispa infestation has been observed to be quickly increasing in the region, particularly in the town of Malungon in Sarangani province,” she said in a statement.

Malungon has vast mango plantations, and because of regular chemical sprayings, parasitoids used to address the brontispa infestation could not thrive, she explained, citing a report from the Sarangani Integrated Pest Management Office.

Brontispa or coconut leaf beetle feeds on young leaves and damages seedlings and mature coconut palms. This insect belongs to the order Coleoptera and Chrysomelidae family along with a number of beetle species.

Citing a PCA report, Datukan identified the towns infested with brontispa as Tampakan, Tupi, Polomolok and Koronadal City in South Cotabato and Libungan, Midsayap, Antipas and Kidapawan in North Cotabato.

The others are Malungon and Glan in Sarangani and Lutayan and Columbio in Sultan Kudarat.

Glan, touted as the “Coconut Queen of the South,” is one of the largest coconut producing towns in the region.

Elvira de Silva, PCA regional manager, said there is a need to establish more parasitoid laboratories to address the brontispa infestation, especially in areas close to towns that have been infested.

Parasitoids are organisms that ultimately sterilize and consume the host, and are similar to typical parasites, the DA statement explained.

In North Cotabato, where 2.71 percent the of total coconut trees have been infested by brontispa, the PCA has set up six parasitoid laboratories, De Silva said.

But other than brontispa, North Cotabato farmers feared that Asiatic palm weevil, which could inflict a worse damage, could infest their crops, the DA regional office said.

Asiatic palm weevil (Rhabdoscelus lineatocollis (Heller)) is a newly-discovered coconut pest that damages the stems, reduces yield, or kills seedlings and young palms.

In Malungon, Sarangani, coconut farmers are using chemicals and the cut-and-burn method to address the brontispa infestation.

The Sarangani agriculture office said the cut-and-burn method could be an effective way to stem the spread of brontispa to other towns.

It has likewise recommended the establishment of parasitoid laboratories in the towns of Maitum, Kiamba and Maasim, which remained free of brontispa.

Datukan said the RCPC, which is attached to the DA, has been culturing parasitoids to help eradicate the brontispa problem. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)