[Headlines of The Connection] Micro-organisms can muster coconut pest—organic farmer

MANILA—The search is on for the pesticide that can cure an insect that has been feasting on coconut trees in Southern Tagalog and in some other regions of the country for four years now.

But an organic farmer in Laguna, however, offers a different approach.

Award-winning organic farmer Ronald Costales has figured a way to stave off the coconut insects. Try out micro-organisms, he says (photo from www.recyclebindofamiddlechild.com)

Award-winning organic farmer Ronald Costales has figured a way to stave off the coconut insects. Try out micro-organisms, he says (photo from www.recyclebindofamiddlechild.com)

Burn the insect-infested leaves first, said Ronald Costales who owns an organic farm called Costales Farms in Laguna province’s Majayjay town. After burning the leaves, the farmer must spray the affected trees with effective micro-organisms (EM), a technology that the Japanese developed.

The website http://www.effectivemicro-organisms.co.uk wrote EM is a mixture “of useful regenerated micro-organisms that exist freely in nature and are not manipulated in any way.” Organic farmers like Costales use EM frequently because EM helps improve “the quality and fertility of soil, as well as the growth and quality of crops

Even before Costales’ 20 coconut trees have been infested in 2013, he has been “heavily” using EM for his crops at Costales Nature Farm, an organic farm in Brgy. Gagalot that’s found just below the foot of Mt. Banahaw.

He noticed that after spraying his 20 trees with EM, the coconut trees were “fully cured”. His farm is part of a province, Laguna, that had some 169,395 coconut trees (says data from the Philippine Coconut Authority) infested with the scale insect Aspidiotusrigidus.

A bottle of EM costs P550, Costales tells The Filipino Connection. But that single bottle can already cover a 30 ha. coconut farm. “Mix EM to 200 liters of water and that can already cover the 30 ha. farm,” Costales said.

It is not EM, however, that will kill the insect, Costales notes.

The search for the pesticide that can kill the Aspidiotus rigidus insect remains as scientists from the University of the Philippines-Los Banos in Laguna have definitively said A.rigidus, not Aspidiotus destructor as earlier identified by scientists and the Philippine Coconut Authority, as the cause of the swarming infestation spreading the Calabarzon region and even provinces as far as Basilan.

Entomologists past and present, through scientific papers done, think these insects that infest on coconut trees and leaves spread out through the wind or through human acts such as sharing infested coconut fruits or through ornamental plants.

Norberto Rillera of the University of Asia and the Pacific said at a conference recently that the solutions Dinotefuran, Diazinon, Chlorpyrifos, Methidathion and white oils can kill the insect when it was then identified as Aspidiotus destructor. Meanwhile, some insects can eat and kill the coconut pest.

But entomologist Dr. Celia Medina of UPLB’s College of Agriculture called on farmers to avoid being fooled as there are “real concerns” to ensure effective pesticide use such as the practicality of using these with the resources that are available; cost of the pesticide; and dealing with farm owners who are either absent or reluctant to use these products.

More importantly, said Medina, the spraying of the pesticide must be done simultaneously altogether over a large area. This is because unsprayed trees will re-infest the sprayed ones, and “we will be wasting money,” Medina explained.

vn mendoza tradingThis re-infestation Costales saw in the neighboring municipality of Alaminos in Laguna. Farmers there applied detergent and gasoline onto the leaves, then sprayed the leaves with pesticide once. The pests, Costales said, spread out again on the trees whose leaves are too tall for the pesticides’ —and the farmers’— reach.

Which is why he says his discovery of killing the pests using EM is currently being replicated by fellow farmers in Brgy.Gagalot. “It should be a community effort,” said the 2012 GawadSaka national awardee of the Department of Agriculture.

As for his organic farm, said to be an “agro-tourism destination,” Costales got worried that the Aspidiotus rigidus insect had jumped over to his mangostein and guyabano trees.



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