The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) hosted an online training on “Identification of Insect Pests, Beneficial Insects, and Diseases of Calamansi, and their Management” via Zoom platform on 04 March 2021. The training aimed to help the farmers to identify the insect pests of calamansi and their associated natural enemies, diagnose the common diseases, and understand the different management strategies to control these.
Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA Director, welcomed the participants which included farmers, nursery operators, technical staff from the agriculture sector in Oriental Mindoro, and other key stakeholders in the province. Dr. Gregorio thanked the local government of Oriental Mindoro through the Provincial Agriculture Office (PAgO) for their utmost support and assistance to the project. He stressed the importance of this training for the farmers to know that not all insects are harmful and that management strategies are needed to keep the balance in nature. He acknowledged the pests and diseases’ impact to the fruit yield, not only in quantity but also in quality. According to him, this training would serve as a venue to share knowledge among practitioners and farmers on concrete and innovative action towards protecting the beneficial insects and managing the pests to bring solutions not only in the production but in the whole value chain of calamansi. Lastly, he looked forward to the participation of the calamansi industry within the context of strengthened academe-industry-government (AIG) interconnectivity towards accelerating transformation through agricultural innovation, which is SEARCA’s strategic intent.
Dr. Pedcris M. Orencio, SEARCA’s Program Head for Research and Thought Leadership, gave an overview of the SEARCA-led project, “Upgrading the Calamansi Value Chain towards Improving the Calamansi Industry of Oriental Mindoro”. He mentioned that this training is under one of the project’s components that focuses on the promotion and dissemination of integrated pest management (IPM) strategies. According to him, the promotion of IPM and other control measures will help the farmers to effectively manage the pests and diseases and provide options that are safe for both the people and the environment.
The training session started with a presentation by Dr. Flor A. Ceballo, Project Study Leader from the Institute of Weed Science, Entomology and Plant Pathology (IWEP) of the College of Agriculture and Food Science-University of the Philippines Los Banos (CAFS-UPLB). She taught the participants on the identification of insect pests, their characteristic damage, and different management strategies to control these. She mentioned the importance of the recognition of insect pests to design a pest management program that is harmless to the beneficial insects and natural enemies of these pests. The participants were also given an overview of the conservation of biological control agents (BCA) to protect and maintain the population of natural enemies in the field. Finally, a video presentation on mass rearing and utilization of BCA such as green lacewings (Chrysopa spp.) and Trichogramma spp. was shown.
This was followed by a discussion of the common viral, bacterial, and fungal diseases of calamansi by Dr. Filomena Sta. Cruz and Dr. Joselito E. Villa, Project Study Leader and Project Staff, both also from the IWEP, CAFS-UPLB. Dr. Sta. Cruz focused on the two major diseases of calamansi in the Philippines – the Citrus Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening, and Citrus Tristeza Disease (CTD). Participants were instructed on the diagnosis of HLB and CTD through visual observation of the signs and symptoms. On-site testing (Iodo-starch reaction test) and molecular detection (use of Polymerase Chain Reaction or PCR and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay or ELISA) of the disease-causing pathogens were recommended. Dr. Villa, on the other hand, discussed the bacterial and fungal diseases of calamansi. They both stressed the importance of managing these diseases to reduce the impacts. Vector control and the use of clean planting materials were given emphasis to manage the spread of diseases. Moreover, the standard protocol for the production and propagation of certified clean and disease-free calamansi planting materials was presented.
To discuss ways forward and future actions, key stakeholders involved in the promotion of IPM strategies in the province were called. Firstly, Ms. Christine M. Pine, the Provincial Agriculturist of Oriental Mindoro, shared the plans and initiatives of the local government unit (LGU) of Oriental Mindoro. Being the top producer of calamansi, she mentioned that the LGU intends to ensure an increase in productivity and to exert efforts to tie up with partner institutions to resolve and manage these pests. Some of these efforts include the submission of proposal to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to assess, survey and map the pests and diseases in the province; action planning to include appropriate interventions and the project’s recommendations in the Annual Investment Plans of the municipalities and the province; organize and capacitate the local pest management team and upgrade the existing pest clinic to expand the production of BCA; engage the participation and support of the Department of Agriculture (DA) – Region IVB and DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research in the establishment of a sanitized facility for the production of mother plants and clean planting materials; farm-level disease monitoring and reporting system; sustain the training for farmers; and lastly, solicit the sustained technical support of the SEARCA and UPLB in the development of vision and action plans towards revitalizing the calamansi industry of Oriental Mindoro.
Likewise, Ms. Lorna A. Cepillo, Officer-in-Charge of the Plant Quarantine Services of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) in Oriental Mindoro, expressed her support to the activities of the project and hoped that the farmers and the nursery operators will see the importance of managing the pests and diseases and apply what they have learned in this training. She also pointed out BPI’s work in the inspection of planting materials and asked the farmers to continue production by using clean planting materials.
Lastly, Dr. Christian Anthony C. Agutaya, Vice President for Research, Development and Extension of Mindoro State College of Agriculture and Technology (MinsCAT) mentioned that this training is intended to put knowledge into practical use and as an informative source of learning materials for improving the calamansi industry. He also looks forward to more linkages and collaborations between MinSCAT’s Calamansi Research and Development Center and other organizations.
Recognizing the need to address the threats posed by the pests and diseases to the calamansi industry, coupled with the farmers lack of pest management plans and continued use of chemical pesticides, the SEARCA and UPLB project management team (PMT) intend to produce and distribute to the farmers and stakeholders a handbook on the economically important pests and diseases of calamansi with the recommended management and control measures. The training concluded with the PMT’s call to strengthen the collaboration of experts from the academe, LGU, other agencies, the farmers and farming families to sustain the initial gains of the project and to maintain Oriental Mindoro’s reign as the “Calamansi King”.