Agriculture - - Big Threat -

THE CA­CAO IN­DUS­TRY in the Philip­pines has great po­ten­tial, not only as a source of food, but also as a good source of ma­te­rial in the man­u­fac­ture of medicine. How­ever, the in­dus­try is cur­rently facing a dis­ease man­age­ment threat. To ad­dress this con­cern, dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ment and pri­vate agen­cies have started to work to­gether to bet­ter un­der­stand, de­tect, and con­trol Vas­cu­lar Streak Dieback (VSD) through a sem­i­nar which was re­cently held at the Ca­cao Agribusi­ness Zone Cen­ter of the Co­coa Foun­da­tion of the Philip­pines, Inc. (Co­coaPhil), in Ta­lan­dang, Tug­bok dis­trict, Davao City. The sem­i­nar sought to dis­sem­i­nate information on man­age­ment and de­tec­tion of VSD through bi­o­log­i­cal-based ap­proaches.

The dis­ease has been found in most co­coa-grow­ing ar­eas in South and South­east Asia, and Pa­pua New Guinea. It is a ma­jor prob­lem for large com­mer­cial plan­ta­tions lo­cated in West Malaysia and Sabah. It is wide­spread in In­done­sia, in­clud­ing in the co­coa plan­ta­tions of East and West Java. Cases of VSD have also been re­ported in South­ern Thai­land, Burma, Viet­nam, and the south­ern part of the Philip­pines.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr. Dion­i­sio G. Alvin­dia of the Philip­pine Cen­ter for Posthar­vest De­vel­op­ment and Mech­a­niza­tion (PhilMech), early de­tec­tion is very im­por­tant for the con­trol of the dis­ease. To man­age the dis­ease, Dr. Alvin­dia said that bi­o­log­i­cal con­trol is be­ing de­vel­oped through the pro­gram, “Ca­cao Pest Man­age­ment Pro­gram: Bi­o­log­i­cal­based Ap­proaches,” be­ing im­ple­mented by the De La Salle Uni­ver­sity (DLSU), Uni­ver­sity of the Philip­pines Los Baños (UPLB). The pro­gram is funded by the Philip­pine Coun­cil for Agri­cul­ture, Aquatic and Nat­u­ral Re­sources Re­search and De­vel­op­ment of the Depart­ment of Science and Tech­nol­ogy (PCAARRD-DOST).

Dur­ing the sem­i­nar, a VSD pic­to­rial guide was pro­vided to ini­tially aid farmer-par­tic­i­pants on VSD de­tec­tion, both in ca­cao seedlings and planted trees. Dr. Lilia M. Fer­nando of the UPLB-Na­tional In­sti­tute of Molec­u­lar Bi­ol­ogy and Biotech­nol­ogy (BIOTECH) pre­sented the in­sti­tu­tions’s project on nanosen­sors, which will be use­ful for farm­ers in de­tect­ing the dis­ease.

Also, Dr. Al­berto T. Bar­rion, one of the Ca­cao Pest Man­age­ment project lead­ers, stressed the im­por­tance of us­ing bi­o­log­i­cal-based ap­proaches as a bet­ter and sus­tain­able strat­egy in man­ag­ing pests and dis­eases of ca­cao, com­pared with the chem­i­cal-based con­trol meth­ods.

Some 50 par­tic­i­pants com­ing from both gov­ern­ment and pri­vate agen­cies, and lo­cal ca­cao farm­ers at­tended the sem­i­nar. Aside from the lec­tures and pre­sen­ta­tions, the par­tic­i­pants also en­gaged in hands-on ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing the ca­cao nurs­ery and plan­ta­tion visit.

The PCAARRD-DOST is sup­port­ive of the ca­cao in­dus­try, as ca­cao is one of the pri­or­ity crops un­der its In­dus­try Strate­gic Science and Tech­nol­ogy Pro­grams (ISPs). The pro­gram seeks to fur­ther de­velop the ca­cao in­dus­try through science-based so­lu­tions and in­no­va­tions.

The PCAARRD ini­tia­tive is ex­pected to boost the pro­duc­tion of small-scale farm­ers in the coun­try who are in dire need of gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tions to im­prove their qual­ity of life.

The lo­cal ca­cao in­dus­try has great po­ten­tial as a source of food and as a raw ma­te­rial in the man­u­fac­ture of medicines. Early de­tec­tion is very im­por­tant for the con­trol of Vas­cu­lar Streak Dieback dis­ease.

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