PCA UNDERTAKES MASSIVE CONTROL ON SCALE INSECT INFESTATION
The Philippine Coconut (PCA) has allotted 1.4M budget to implement immediate and extensive measures to mitigate the scale insect infestation in affected areas in 41 barangays of seven municipalities in the province of Batangas.
According to Administrator Euclides G. Forbes, PCA is continuously taking actions to prevent infestation to reach epidemic level so as not to affect nearby provinces like Laguna and Quezon.
The coconut scale insects also known as Aspidiotus destructor Signoret (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), are small insects which are plant parasites. These insect pests cause yellowing or chlorosis, wilting, premature nutfall and low yield because it continuously siphons off the plant sap with their specialized mouthparts. Thick sooty molds grow on the honeydew excreted by these insects, preventing photosynthesis.
The scale insects usually become problematic in coconut nurseries and in young palms. "They were observed on the under side of the coconut leaves in young palms but in bearing palms, the scale insects were found not only on the underside of the coconut leaves but also on the surface of the fruits and petioles," Administrator Forbes said.
"We are already looking for sustainable long term solutions such as biological control which takes time to be established and be effective, for the reason that natural enemies become absent as a result of extreme conditions such as drought and typhoons," Forbes bared. He also added that PCA already released 700 individuals of predatory coccinellids (Cryptolemus and Telsimia), beetles that eat scale insects in the affected areas. It will be done continuously until all scale insects in the affected areas have been treated.
PCA is also pursuing the mechanical control. In young palms, the scale insects and mealybugs can be controlled manually by scraping them off or spraying them off with a jet of soapy water. Washing infested plant parts or a brisk wash spray of water can be helpful in reducing populations, particularly in cases of small infestations and/or in young palms. Administrator Forbes also added that part of this mechanical control is leaf pruning and disposal of pruned leaves by burning, reducing the reproducing population of the scale insects and mealybugs and prevents the spread to other areas.
Chemical control with contact or systemic insecticides can be used but is effective only for the 'crawler' stage of the pest (or the very young scale insect). Furthermore, the use of insecticide spraying is applicable only for young palms and seedlings. "It is important to select appropriate insecticides, timing and application methods to reduce negative impact on the natural enemies but still get maximum control," he noted.
Other partners in combating the raging coconut infestation are Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), PCA – Albay Research Center (PCA-ARC), Plant Quarantine Service (PQS), Department of Agriculture – National Crop Protection Center (DA – NCPC) and Southern Tagalog Integrated Agricultural Research Center (STIARC).
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