Sarangani moves to contain bugs infesting coconut farms

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/08 July) — Agriculture personnel in Sarangani Province have launched massive control measures to contain the continuing infestation of Brontispa longissima or coconut leaf beetle in coconut farms in four municipalities.

Jonathan Duhaylungsod, Sarangani agriculture officer, said the highly-destructive pest has been rapidly spreading in various coconut farms and so far affected 30 barangays in the province in the last several months.

Hardest hit is the municipality of Glan, where a total of 2,792 coconut trees in 11 of its 31 barangays have been devastated by the pest, he said.

He said the municipal agriculture office of Glan reported that the areas affected by the infestation were barangays Poblacion, Calabanit, Tapon, Ilaya, Glan Padidu, Madan, Tango, Lago, Taluya, Gumasa and Cablalan.

Last week, the local government declared the entire area under a state of calamity due to the damage wrought by the Brontispa infestation to its coconut industry, which comprises 90 percent of the local economy.

Glan, which was dubbed the “Coconut Queen of the South,” is one of the largest coconut producing towns in Region 12.

Aside from Glan, Duhaylungsod said the presence of the pest was also monitored recently in four more coastal villages in Alabel and Malapatan towns.

He said the Brontispa infestation was initially confirmed in coconut farms in several villages in Malungon town last year.

Duhaylungsod said they have adopted integrated control measures to in a bid to contain the pest and prevent it from further spreading in other coconut-producing areas in the province.

He said the initiative is supported by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and the Department of Agriculture Region 12’s Regional Crop Protection Center.

Brontispa, considered as one of the most damaging coconut pests, is a nocturnal insect that feeds on the young leaves of coconuts and other palm species.

A briefer issued by PCA cited that the larvae of Brontispa feeds on young leaves of coconut, leaving it scorched in a ragged appearance, while the adults leave chewing marks on the leaves.

“The damage that the pest causes impairs the physiological activity of the leaves, which can lead to the death of the plants. Coconuts that are 4-5 years old are most heavily attacked by this pest,” it said.

Duhaylungsod said they are presently implementing mechanical, chemical and biological methods to help contain the infestation.

The mechanical control method requires the cutting of the young coconut fronds infested by the beetle while biological control involves the mass propagation of earwigs, which is a biological predator of Brontispa, he said.

Earwigs will be released on infested coconut trees to feed on brontispa as its prey, he explained.

He said the chemical control recommends the use of systematic insecticides through trunk injection.

“We’re also educating our farmers regarding the pest as well as its control and management measures. We’ve been conducting short trainings through our farmer’s field school for the technology transfer,” Duhaylungsod said in an interview over TV Patrol Socsksargen.

The official said they are set to conduct “retooling” activities to improve the capability of the province’s “bantay-peste” teams.

Duhaylungsod said they have requested the release of an initial P100,000 for the purchase of chemicals or pesticides that will be used in the eradication drive against Brontispa.

Sarangani Gov. Steve Solon said the RCPC has allotted five sachets per week of entomopathogenic fungus, which helps eradicate the Brontispa.

“The use of this fungus is very favorable to our communities since it does not damage the health of humans and is sustainable,” he said. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)