THE use of fungi as an effective biological control agent against cocolisap or coconut scale insect (CSI), is being researched by the University of the Philippines Los Baños Crop Protection Cluster and the Department of Agriculture Biotechnology Program. Cocolisap (Aspidiotus spp.) has recently been presenting a daunting challenge to the Philippine coconut industry. CSI outbreaks were reported in various areas in the Philippines, including nine municipalities in Batangas province.
This problem has caused economic losses estimated at around P200 million. The parasitic insect causes the leaves to dry up and turn brown before the tree withers and dies.
“The insect is difficult to control since their females secrete a hard waxy protective covering over their body where eggs are laid,” said Dr. Barbara Caoili, who leads the research project at the Crop Protection Cluster, UPLB.
“This ‘armor shield’ is an excellent defense mechanism against chemical insecticides, natural predators and adverse weather conditions,” she added. The research project is supported by the Biotech Program of the Department of Agriculture. It explores the use of entomopathogenic fungi (EPF) as an alternative to chemical control and potentially more effective approach to controlling cocolisap in Batangas.
EPF are important because they are able to break the armor shield with both mechanical means and their enzymes. In utilizing biotechnology tools, Caoili’s team has been able to isolate 193 samples of fungi obtained from CSI cadavers, any one of which could be the solution to the cocolisap problem.
The next step of the research team is to determine which of these samples are most virulent to the cocolisap but with no or negligible adverse effects to coconuts, humans and other organisms.
Ultimately, selected EPF formulations will be field-tested in several sites in Batangas to determine efficacy and safety.
If proven effective, these EPF formulations can be part of a standard protocol for controlling cocolisap outbreaks.
If successful, the study stands to benefit coconut farmers, researchers and policy-makers. All industries that depend on the coconut industry’s productivity will also be beneficiaries of the study’s favorable results.
–Published in BusinessMirror. See article link here.