Experts study eco-friendly ways to fight cacao pests
Experts are studying ways to naturally fight cacao pests in order to raise the country’s production and take advantage of the declining global chocolate supply.
The experts are from the De La Salle University-Manila, National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology-University of the Philippines Los Baños (BIOTECH-UPLB), Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), Bureau of Plant Industry-Davao National Crop Research and Development Center (BPI-DNCRDC) and the Cocoa Foundation of the Philippines.
The Philippines has around 17,300 hectares of land planted to cacao, mostly backyard gardens or smallholder plantations.
The large cacao farms are found in Mindanao, which account for 90 percent of total country production.
Close to 80 percent of cacao growers are smallholders who find it harder to fight pests and diseases compared to larger plantations, which have funds and technical experts.
The cacao pest management research seeks to develop biological-based pest management strategies to control major insect pests and diseases.
The four insect pests and diseases of cacao in the Philippines are the cacao pod borer, cacao mirid bug, black pod rot, and vascular streak dieback.
The research program will an integrated pest management (IPM) program using biological approaches like biopesticides, semiochemicals, nanobiosensors, particle film technology, and biological control agents.
The IPM is more sustainable than chemical-based pesticides because it balances crop productivity and environmental protection.
Aside from the El Nino, the declining cacao (and consequently, chocolate production) production is due to aging cacao trees, pests and diseases.
Production decline in chocolate producing regions provides opportunities for countries like the Philippines to fill in the gap.