LA TRININDAD, Benuet – In Benguet and some adjacent municipalities of Mountain Province, agriculture has and always been the number one means of living for its inhabitants.
These inhabitants mostly farmers produce and supply most of our nation’s demand for highland vegetables. Due to this demand, farmers resort to conventional farming for faster crop production just to cope up with mandate of its consumers nationwide.
Shifting from conventional to organic farming.
However, these conventional farming practices often times, if not, most likely do more harm than good. Relentless use of chemical pesticides can drastically change soil quality from fertile to acidic. Hence, farm lands become less feasible for crop production. What’s more, to our farmers, the use of these expensive chemical pesticides burn holes through their pockets leaving them to breakeven if not bankrupt during harvest seasons. Dangerously enough, mis-use and mishandling of pesticides can also be risky not only for the farm laborers, but also for vegetable consumers.
To combat these problems, Benguet State University through its extension programs is encouraging our farmers to shift from conventional to use of Good agricultural practices (GAP) and organic farming for a more sustainable and environment-friendly type of agriculture. This because organic crops does not require chemical pesticides, if not, less. But even organic crops are not spared from destruction brought about by pests like cutworms, a major pest of highland vegetables organic or not. This makes it difficult for our farmers to change their routine drill of using chemical pesticides in solving pest problems.
The breakthrough With aims to solve the cutworm problem, a BSU research was conducted by Ms. Felicitas Guerrero and Dr. Eulogio V. Cardona Jr. Their efforts led to the discovery of a biological enemy against cutworm: a virusscientifically termed as Spodoptera litura, commonly known as Nucleopolyhedro virus or locally known as NPV.
In their research, they discovered that NPV is a very viable and safe alternative to chemical pesticides specifically in combatting cutworm. Also, they assured that natural enemies like diadegma, a parasitoid that is widely used for the control of the pest diamondback moth in cabbage are not affected by the use of NPV. Similarly, NPV has no effect on people, wild life and are notphytotoxic unlike synthetic insecticides. Moreover, it can be applied through traditional method of using a sprayer. The technology is very simple; farmers can prepare NPV by themselves and its more cost efficient compared to other synthetic pesticides.
Based on the results of a technology demonstration farm facilitated by farmer-researcher Mr. Cus Kilakil also from BSU, NPV is a huge leap of discovery as an alternative remedy to chemical pesticides in eradicating the cutworms. According to Kilakil, farmers witnessed the effects of NPV against cutworms first hand, from the sluggish larva to the change of its color from light creamy to light pinkish, then towards its death. Farmers during the demonstration saw the effect of NPV when it infected the cutworm. NPV caused the cutworm to bloat then burst excreting out oozing of body fluids with foul odor.
Kilakil expressly gave his thumbs-up to NPV. He added that NPV will play a huge role in aiding farmers in particular and our environment in general. Also, NPV is well suited for the farmers of Benguet and neighboring municipalities of Mountain Province because of their similarities in vegetable crops. He cited, crucifers as top vegetable crops produced in Benguet and adjacent municipalities of Mountain Province because of their capacity to adopt torelatively cool temperature.
Among them is cabbage which is considered to be the lead vegetable crop grown in the highland Philippines and has export potential. However, these crucifers are also on top of the cutworm’s menu.
He added NPV created a huge impact to farmers practicing organic farming. Aside from its potential to reduce the farmers’ production cost, it also helped and will aid in improving the already acidic farmlands of Benguet and adjacent municipalities of Mountain Province.
Kilakil also disclosed other undocumented discovery they had after frequent use of NVP. They noticed that dead cutworms killed by NPV are good fertilizers when they let those cutworms rot on soil. More, they learned that NPV can thrive over the soil, thus, NPV can attack these cutworms after they hatched from their eggs. “The possibility might be endless for NPV”, said Kilakil after sharing before this author another discovery they had using NPV.
As of this writing, Kilakil unveiled their recent discovery on NPV. According to him, NPV can also be used as biological enemy against plant lice or locally known as Aphids, but that’s another story. Rocky Ngalob