By JAMES TABABA
The previous article discussed the chemical practices of pest control, its risk, and why it is the last resort in implementing Integrated Pest Management.This article talks about the use of biotechnology and the regulatory laws in IPM.
Biotechnology is the science that utilizes principles of biology to create products and organisms. It is applied in developing new and improved crops, animals, and microorganisms in agriculture. Biotechnology provides improvements that are not possible with traditional methods of breeding. Here are the biotechnological practices for pest control:
Genetic engineering. Genetic engineering involves altering an organism’s DNA by transferring genes from one organism to another. Organisms with altered DNA using genetic engineering techniques are called genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or transgenic organisms. In crops, GMOs are developed to make high-yielding crops with better taste and appearance, and resistant to pests and harsh climatic conditions.
In the Philippines, there are several commercially available GMO crops approved for production. Among these are BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn and eggplant. Both crops contain the natural protein from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, making them resistant to insect pests.
BT corn was commercialized in the Philippines in 2022. It is created to combat the Asian corn borer, a highly destructive insect that can cost farmers up to 80% of crop damages. On the other hand, BT eggplant is created to resist eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB). EFSB is also a highly destructive insect that can cause up to 73% losses. Planting non-GMO varieties of corn or eggplant, the farmers are forced to apply pesticides to reduce losses, which constitutes a large portion of their production cost.
Creating these GMOs aims to increase farmers’ yield by lessening the damages caused by insect pests, increasing profit by reducing production costs, and eliminating pesticides. BT corn and eggplant are safe for humans and other non-target insects.
Tissue culture. Tissue culture is the propagation of plants using plant parts in a nutrient medium. It is considered a part of pest control because plant tissue culture can produce disease-free planting materials. Examples of crops usually mass-propagated using tissue culture are bananas, coconut, and ornamental crops.
Regulatory practices of pest control
Under the plant quarantine law, there is an act to protect the agricultural industry from harmful existing plant diseases in foreign countries, wherein the importation of live organisms in the country is regulated. This is led by the Bureau of Plant Industry – National Plant Quarantine Services Division.
To import plants into the country, there are quarantine procedures to follow. The plants capable of harboring pests should pass the inspection and verification. It should also pass the phytosanitary requirement imposed by the importer.
Specific plant quarantine regulations are also implemented domestically. The movement of agricultural materials is restricted to contain and prevent the spread of diseases within the country.
In 2014, there was an infestation of coconut-scale insects locally known as cocolisap that affected 1.2 million coconut trees in CALABARZON. To prevent the further spread of the disease, the movement of coconuts from the CALABARZON region is restricted.
A mango quarantine protocol is implemented in Palawan because of the infestation of mango pulp weevil. Palawan mangoes are kept from going outside Palawan Island. They can only be bought and consumed within the province.
Guimaras province is known as the “Mango Capital of the Philippines” because of its sweet and export-quality mangoes. Because of this, Guimaras was proclaimed a “Special Quarantine Zone” to protect its mangoes from mango pulp and seed weevil. Mangoes from other places are not allowed to enter the province.
For every pest situation, there is an appropriate combination of management tactics. First is to identify the responsible pest causing the damage. Misidentification of the cause of damage may result in the ineffective implementation of IPM. After identifying the pests, learn their biology and life cycle. Knowing the correct set of pest control tactics is essential, especially for the timing of preventive measures.
Next, monitor the pest population before it becomes a severe problem. Monitoring plant health and signs of pests and diseases should be done regularly. Setting several traps within the area is an excellent visual representation of the insect pest population.
Determine the point where the cause of damage is more than the cost of control. Some crops can tolerate pests and diseases well. Having a few insect pests present would not affect the yield of the crops. Pest control could be expensive.
IPM provides several pest management options to be considered. It may take a few trials and errors before arriving at the best pest control tactics. IPM may take time and effort to implement, but it is a step toward sustainable and safe agriculture.
Read more about farming and gardening at agriculture.com.ph