SOUTH COTABATO — The municipal agriculturist of Tupi is now monitoring Barangay Polonuling after getting reports that a coconut plantation spanning almost 50 hectares was significantly damaged by the arrival of a new pest.
This, after local officials had to deal with a slug caterpillar infestation in barangays Cebuano and Linan that damaged more than 200 hectares and cost plantation owners P3.9 million.
According to Jonie Pascua, caretaker of a 2-hectare plantation, he discovered dead leaves on his coconut trees last October, a condition which worsened and spread to his whole plantation in December.
Pascua and plantation workers discovered that leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae) were slowly destroying their trees.
"Dito po talaga nag-umpisa, tapos diyan na sa kabila. Naapektuhan po, kasi noon marami pong bunga, ngayon nahuhulog po yung iba. Iyong bunga nya, bata pa lang nahuhulog na," Pascua said.
According to barangay secretary Ariel Boko, 13 farmers were affected by the new infestation, with damages estimated at more than P500,000.
Up to 80 percent of crops in the barangay were coconuts.
After asking the municipal agriculture office for help with pest control, farmers, assisted by local officials and the Philippine Coconut Authority, sprayed a mixture of fungi and water on the plants, which can help rid the plants of the beetles.
"Hindi ito pareha ng slug caterpillar na maubos talaga. Pero iyon ay spots lang naman po ang kinakain nya. Ngayon ang nangyayari kasi sa field, kapag nagkaroon ng opening leaves, yun na rin ang magiging entry point ng other microorganisms," said Danilo de Guzman, municipal agriculturist of Tupi.
He added, it will take 6 months to 1 year before trees are rid of the pests.