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29-km defense line to protect Bicol from CSI

PILI, Camarines Sur—Anticipating the possible entry to Bicol province of coconut scale insects (CSI) that have continued to attack coconut farms in neighboring Southern Tagalog, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has put up a 29-kilometer defense line in the region’s border.

The stretch is like a fire line as wide as half a hectare, running from coast to coast, from Barangay (village) Maulawin in Sta. Elena town, Camarines Norte province, to Barangay Pasay in Del Gallego town, Camarines Sur province, according to Mateo Zipagan, PCA-Bicol manager.

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The PCA will deploy personnel to monitor the line monthly for signs of CSI, also referred to as “cocolisap” by the Department of Agriculture, and look for infected trees.

Endemic to the Philippines, the CSI species (Aspidiotus destructor) does not develop into an infestation because of the presence of natural predators, such as the ladybird beetles. But Zipagan said the Aspidiotus rigidus Borchsenius species, which has harder shells and is traced to have come from Indonesia, multiplies uncontrollably in coconut trees because of the absence of natural predators.

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“CSI infestation is deadly to coconut trees when unchecked and can kill young trees within three to six months while old trees can die after being infected for one-and-a-half to two years,” he said.

CSI is airborne and easily carried by wind, and survives in alternative host plants, such as avocado, breadfruit, mango, guava, papaya, cocoa, cotton, oil palm, rubber, sugarcane, mangosteen and tea, Zipagan said.

It can completely cover the leaves and fruits of coconut trees, sucking the leaves brown and dry.

Zipagan said CSI infestation could be controlled by cutting off and burning infected fronds and fruits, spraying pesticides, applying fertilizers and propagating biological control agents or natural predators.

The PCA has monitored insect attacks in Tagkawayan town and Polillo Island, both in Quezon province, which prompted the establishment of the defense line along the Bicol border.

The infestation was first noticed in 2009 in one village in Tanauan town, Batangas province,  and in 2012 in Isabela City, Basilan province, before it spread to the provinces of Laguna, Quezon and Cavite. So far, it has ruined more than a million trees.

Zipagan said the coconut industry would be losing some P34 billion, with four billion coconut trees to be affected if no intervention is made. Trees in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), Bicol region and Western Mindanao are also threatened.

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TAGS: Bicol, Coconuts, News, Pests, Regions
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