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PIA Press Release

PCA moves to prevent spread of coconut pest found in Boracay

by A. Lumaque

Roxas City (15 August) -- A specimen of larva and mature brontispa longissima attacking palms at Boracay Island in Aklan have been positively collected last August 10 by Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) - Plant Quarantine Service (PQS) team.

The discovery of the coconut hispine beetle was followed by an immediate treatment process on infested and healthy palms within 0.5 kilometer radius from Stations 2 and 3 of the island to prevent the spread of the disease.

The beetle feeds on young leaves, which then appear burned or scorched. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the pest may cause the death of young palms and those situated in poor growing conditions.

The beetle causes great damage to seedlings and mature coconut palms, kills the young spears and eventually the whole palm. Ornamental palms suffer the same fate.

"All efforts must be done to prevent movement of coconut and ornamental palms from Boracay to the mainland of Aklan," said PCA Regional Manager Jose S. Cruz in a regional memorandum to all PCA Provincial Coconut Development Managers (PCDMs).

There is no positive identification in Caticlan, Aklan, the memo on brontispa longissima alert noted.

"In any event of infestation, insecticide Actara EC can be sprayed on young seedlings while for tall palms, injection/bore method is most appropriate," Cruz said.

The larva and adult are the destructive stages. They damage the epiderms of the young leaves that eventually provide easy entry for pathogens. The adult is not capable of long flights but its long life span lasting from 75 to 90 days is responsible for the short distance spread of the insect. On the other hand, the larva feeds throughout its growing period, which normally lasts for 36 days. Both larva and adult stay between unopened leaflets of young coconut spears. They feed on the soft tissues but spare the hardier veins and mid-ribs. Affected parts decay and dry up, thus preventing the coconut palm from bearing fruits, said an information about the new coconut pest in a PCA website.

The eggs of this beetle are difficult to detect because they are inserted between leaflets. Thus, planting materials of coconuts and ornamental palms that are intended for transport to non-infested areas should be inspected thoroughly, the information added.

A re-echo seminar on the identification of signs and symptoms as well as prevention and control of brontispa longissima has also been directed in the memorandum. In addition, coordination activities with BPI-PQS officers for action planning will be conducted.

The seminar and coordination activities will be carried out by PCA agriculturists Gabriel Robles, Dionelo Ongga, Mhylene Relojo and Rocela Lascuņa.

"All agriculturists are also directly ordered to conduct field monitoring and inspection, and representation to all coconut and palm nursery operators on brontispa longissima prevention and control," Cruz added.

The coconut hispine beetle is considered one of the most damaging pests of coconut and other palm species. The beetle is endemic in Sulawesi, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, and spread in the late 1990s to Southeast Asia and Maldives where it severely damaged coconut production.

Based on the information sent by the Brontispa Action Team to the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD), the pest was presumably introduced to the Philippines in early 2004 through the importation of ornamental palms.

The palms on Baywalk, Roxas Blvd. and those along the entire stretch of Silang to Dasmarinas highway in Cavite show visible damage from the pest. It is fast spreading and has recently been found in a few young palms in Candelaria, Quezon; Bay, Laguna; and San Vicente, Lipa City, the PCA website noted. (PIA) [top]

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