BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: A state university faculty member here has received the prestigious award for his contribution in solving the ailing citrus industry, which is bugged for almost a decade with infestation and disease.
Jonar Yago of the Nueva Vizcaya State University (NVSU) was awarded the National Gawad Saka Award as Outstanding Agricultural Scientist for his contribution to agricultural research on citrus twig blight disease (TBD).
According to the Department of Agriculture (DA), Yago is the first ever scientist to receive the prestigious award in the province. He helped citrus farmers in the identification of the fungus that damaged their crops.
For more than five years, citrus growers in upland town Kasibu lost millions of pesos in income due to the infestation, which affected thousands of hectares that were devoted to citrus plants.
Kasibu town is the province’s center of citrus production while Nueva Vizcaya province is considered to be the citrus capital of the Philippines.
The DA earlier reported that more than 2,000 hectares of citrus farms were affected by the viral fruit disease (also called “huang long bing”). Experts said the disease can destroy one half of the total harvestable citrus fruits and could spread so rapidly if not controlled immediately. They also fear that it may lead to the death of the province’s citrus.
Kasibu municipal agriculturist Eriño Basadre Jr. hopes that the government can save about 500 hectares of citrus plantation from the dreaded disease now that Yago has come up with a research on TBD.
“The province could only expect citrus production from only around 500 hectares. It used to be thousands of hectares of citrus plantations. Farmers may have to redevelop their plantations,” Basadre said.
Mayor Chito Bumolo was also saddened by the problem saying that citrus production was reduced by 50 percent when compared to the production record five years ago.
“We used to harvest thousands of tons of citrus until this problem cropped up,” Bumolo said.
The DA said the fungus caused by the TBD was used as a baseline information in finding solutions for the said disease in citrus. It added that Yago, a doctor, is the first scientist to study the organisms causing the disease in citrus.
The discovery started in 2010 when Dr. Yago went to Maejo University in Thailand where he was granted a Visiting Research Fellow at the Biotechnology and Institute of Quality and Standard. He also studied the case further during his stints at the University of Florida, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).