Science department seeks new solution, approach to curb Panama

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011


TO CURB the dreaded Panama disease in Davao Region, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) offered to banana industry stakeholders its science-based interventions against the disease.

DOST recently presented to various key players of the region's banana industry its solutions and approaches in preventing the Panama disease or the Fusarium Wilt.

In its proposed action plan on Fusarium Wilt disease management in Davao Region, DOST recommended an approach of preventing the further spread of the disease through early diagnosis, appropriate eradication techniques and quarantine.

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It was also cited that an effective irrigation and drainage system should be put up to prevent surface run-off.

"We are looking at all possible solutions," DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo told reporters in Davao City, referring to the drive of helping the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the banana industry in dealing with the Panama disease that severely hit the region.

For an immediate remedy, Montejo cited the use of three biological control agents such as Trichoderma harzianum, Vesicular arbuscular mychorrhiza (VAM) and Plant Growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR).

Montejo explained that the micro-organisms will help strengthen the banana roots to be able to resist the disease.

He told the local media here during a consultation meeting with the banana industry stakeholders on December 8 that the micro-organisms will be tested in fields by early part of next year.

For the long-term approach, DOST raised the use of Foc (Fusarium oxysporum f. Sp. Cubense)-resistant varieties such as GCTCV 119 and 218.

Montejo said they are planning to immediately conduct onsite trials of the Foc-resistant varieties in the mostly hit areas in Davao Region.

He said DOST is also eyeing to request the assistance of the science community of Taiwan where the varieties were taken.

A Banana Research Center which will initially focus on the Panama disease will also soon be put up in Davao City as part of the long-term strategy, the DOST chief disclosed.

Further, DOST recommended for other mitigating measures such as cropping systems (e.g. crop rotation, annual cropping, etc.) and judicious use of effective fungicides.

"We are committed in these endeavors with close coordination with private sectors and DA," stated Montejo, who hoped for a positive response from the stakeholders.

Montejo is optimistic in solving the problem within a one-year period.

DOST is pushing for its S&T interventions on Panama disease through its Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-Pcaarrd) in partnership with the Southern Mindanao Agricultural Resources Research and Development Consortium (Snardrdec).

The DA in the region has also taken steps in addressing the Panama disease that included the creation of Task Force of Fusarium in October this year.

DA's short-term action plan also covered the drafting of quarantine ordinance, trainer’s training for municipal agriculturists, disease mapping, management scheme, eradication (burning the mat), use of Trichoderma and information campaign.

DA reported that the disease has infected a total banana area of 634.70 hectares in the region with the highest incidence in Compostela Valley with an area of 425.30 hectares.

Fusarium-infected areas in Davao City reached to 159 hectares, while 50.40 hectares were hit in Davao del Norte, DA said.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on December 21, 2011.

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