• Philippines botanical research gaining ground


    The Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) is furthering its initial research on Betel nut and trichoderma in containing pests and fungal infection, as part of its efforts to develop organic solutions for the country’s agriculture sector.

    Rex Bingabing, PhilMech executive director, said that the agency has tested at least eight botanical plants in the Philippines and based on initial research, Betel nut showed potential in significantly reducing pests and fungal pathogens.

    “This can be considered a very big step in PhilMech’s research and development efforts to come up with organic solutions for use by Filipino farmers. Betel is also widely grown in the Philippines and for sure, there are thousands of such trees in the country today,” Bingabing said.

    Beside Betel, PhilMech scientists and researchers tested Fish Poison Tree (bituon), Stink Grass (kantutay), Devil Weed (hagonoy), jatropha (tubang bakod or tuba-tuba), acacia, bayating and anobrang.

    The extracts were tested against pests like maize and rice weevil, red flour beetle and grain borer, and against fungal plant pathogens Apergillus flavus, Lasiodiplodia theobromae, Fusarium verticilloides and Colletotrichum gloeosporioides.

    Among the eight botanicals tested, only Betel showed significant effect on the mortality of adult insects and fungal pathogens.

    PhilMech, the technology and mechanization research arm of the Department of Agriculture, is also developing and formulating a strain of trichoderma harzianum to combat major postharvest fungal pathogens in banana.

    Trichoderma formulations from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Mexico, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United States are currently available for farming applications, and PhilMech wants to commercialize a strain that can effectively deal with the banana crown rot.

    So far, PhilMech has successfully isolated strain DGA02 of trichoderma harzianum as effective against banana crown rot-causing pathogens.

    “The ultimate objective is to come up with a commercial package that will be easily used by banana farmers and exporters,” Bingabing said.

    The commercial package can be in the form of wettable powder, granular formulations, pelleted formulation and liquid formulation.

    Banana crown rot is one of the major postharvest problems of banana farmers and exporters, who currently use chemicals to contain the pathogens cause the fungal infection. However, chemical use on banana harvests can negatively affect human health. Bananas are one of the major agricultural exports of the Philippines.


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