PH-developed biopesticide ‘effective’ in lowering mortality rate in Cavendish bananas infected with Panama disease — DOST

| Written by Padayon UP

Locally developed biocontrol agent and biopesticide ACTICon was found to be effective in reducing mortality rate in Cavendish bananas infected with Panama disease, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said.

DOST Secretary Fortunato “Boy” T. de la Peña said ACTICon, which was developed by the University of the Philippines Los Banos-National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (UPLB-BIOTECH) through the agency’s funding support, was piloted in Davao del Norte to determine its effect as biocontrol agent against Fusarium wilt (FocTR4) in Cavendish banana.

During his weekly report on Friday, Nov. 12, he said results of recently completed project on “Pilot testing of ACTICon™ as Biocontrol Agent Against Fusarium Wilt (FocTR4) in Cavendish Banana” showed that the UPLB-BIOTECH-developed biocontrol agent and biopesticide “was effective in lowering the infection of FocTR4, otherwise known as Panama disease.”

The pilot test was supported by the DOST-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD).

Citing the report of project leader Irene A. Papa, De la Peña said “ACTICon™ enhanced plant growth as shown by profused rooting and growth of the meriplants in the nursery.”

“ACTICon-treated meriplants increased survival rate by 97.49 percent compared to 72.1 percent survival rate of untreated meriplants.”

The DOST chief said Fusarium wilt or Panama disease is caused by the fungal pathogen Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense, a fungus that lives in the soil and attacks the plants from the roots.

“It survives in the soil for decades, making the land unusable for non-resistant crops,” he added.

He lamented that Tropical Race 4 (TR4), the strain that attacks the current Cavendish variety, has already caused at least $1.2 billion in losses.

Based on scientific reports, TR4 cannot be controlled using fungicides and cannot be eradicated from soil using fumigants.

“The disease has already spread in Asia, Australia, Africa, and Latin America. The disease can cause 100 percent mortality rate,” de la Peña said.

(This article, written by Charissa Luci-Atienza, was first published in the Manila Bulletin Website on November 13, 2021)