Insect outbreaks occur when new strains/species of insects are introduced into areas where they have no or very few natural enemies. However, eventually nature corrects itself; biological control agents appear and multiply in sufficient numbers to control the invaders. But this new state of equilibrium could take years, and by then, farmers would have suffered heavy losses.
The new coconut scale insect (CSI) devastating coconuts in Batangas, Laguna, Cavite and Quezon has been identified as Aspidiotus rigidus, which is different from the more common Aspidiotus destructor.
The immediate challenge to the CSI outbreak is to arrest/contain the further spread of CSI from the current adversely affected areas to the rest of the country. The idea is to reduce CSI population and slow down its spread in orderto give the time for the insects’ natural enemies to multiply.
Scale insects are naturally preyed upon by wasps,coccinelid beetles, earwigs, and lacewings,and these are also infected by fungi. Our key agricultural research agencies (Department of Agriculture’s Philippine Coconut Authority; University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB), and Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development) are working double time to artificially rear these potential biocontrol agents in great numbers to release them in outbreak areas. Nevertheless, their efforts are relatively puny considering the gravity of the situation. Their efforts should be multiplied ten-fold to make a difference.
Contact vs. Systemic Pesticides
Scale insects are ubiquitous pests on many crops. They are relatively easy to manage/control with commercially available pesticides. In fact, household detergents and oils that are inexpensive and safe to humans and the environment have been demonstrated to be effective against scale insects.
By virtue of Malacañang Proclamation No. 783 signed by President Benigno S. Aquino III on June 6, 2014, Academician Ramon C. Barba was conferred the Rank and Title of National Scientist for his distinguished achievements in the field of plant physiology, focusing on induction of flowering of mango and on micropropagation of important crop species that have earned him national and international accolades.
His pioneering work on the induction of flowering and fruiting of mango resulted in the change from seasonal supply of fresh fruits to all year round availability of abundant fresh mangoes. The regularity of mango production is the key ingredient in the development of mango exports which gave rise to an entirely new industry of processed mango products. He developed the plant growth enhancer, FLUSH, which accelerates the growth cycle of the trees and advance their flowering and fruiting stages, to assure continuous fruit bearing of mango trees. The discovery assured regular or controlled flowering of mango trees and in many dry areas like Cebu and Guimaras, hence, the flowering period for the whole country was not just confined to March and April but has extended to several months, assuring a supply of mangoes throughout the year.
This mango induction technology was patented not only in the Philippines but also in other countries, such as USA, England, Australia and New Zealand. He did not collect any royalty from the patent so that ordinary farmers can freely use the technology. Nowadays, many mango producing countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Australia have adopted the technology for their mango production. Furthermore, this technology has been successfully applied on other fruit trees including cashew.
His outstanding works on plant micropropagation led major changes in the production schemes of several important crops. He and his team at the Institute of Plant Breeding developed the tissue culture protocol for banana in order to produce large quantities of planting materials that are robust and disease-free, allowing for annual replanting, which brought major shift in banana production system, now a standard practice in large farms not only in the Philippines but also in other countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. He also established the tissue culture protocol for sugar cane that made possible the rapid production of large quantities of disease-free planting materials. This becomes the standard practice in disease cleaning of sugar cane varieties. Tissue culture of sugar cane has become an integral part of sugar cane agriculture worldwide.
Through Malacañang Proclamation No. 782 dated June 6, 2014, President Benigno S. Aquino conferred on Academician Angel C. Alcala the Rank and Title of National Scientist in recognition of his outstanding contributions to society, specifically his seminal and original research on the systematic, ecology, and diversity of Philippine amphibians and reptiles, and, marine biodiversity, reef fishes and conservation (marine-protected areas).
His studies on and advocacy of marine no-take zones led to a national policy and program that established no-take marine protective areas which has resulted in more than a thousand of such marine no-take zones in the country and has become a model of coastal resource management and conservation adopted by many countries. No-take marine reserves allows the build-up of marine biodiversity including fishery species as well as export of adult fish to areas (outside of MPAs) used as fishing areas, thereby enhancing fish yields of fishers.
He spent his professional life as an academic leader,an institution builder, and a public administrator.He was appointed as president of the Silliman University,here he helped institutionalize scientific research on marine biology and marine conservation. Dr. Alcala was appointed to two important positions in the Fidel V. Ramos Cabinet; he served as Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources from 1992 to 1995 and later as Chairman of the Commission on Higher Education from 1995 to 1999, with probity, integrity, and transparency.