Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Panama wilt attacks Davao farms

By Aurelio A. Pena

"Panama wilt," a plant disease which has been devastating farms in Davao Region during the last few years, has remained as the "biggest threat" to the country's banana industry.

Also known to agri-researchers as "frusarium", this plant disease turns leaves of banana plants from green to yellow, then to brown and black, killing the whole plant.

Rene Dalayon, president of the Mindanao Banana Growers and Exporters Association (MBGEA) said "if nothing is done to fight this plant disease, the entire Philippine banana industry will be wiped out in five to ten years."

"Many banana plantations have already been abandoned by our farmers and growers. There's no way we can control this disease. All we do is just to quarantine the affected areas to keep the disease from spreading to other plantations," Dalayon said.

The MBGEA president, who also heads the banana industry cluster as its chairman, urged all regional directors of government agencies like the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)"to see for themselves what's really happening to the banana industry" here in the Davao Region.

"It's much better if all the regional directors can see with their own eyes the extensive damage done by this plant disease in the region," Dalayon said during a meeting with consultants of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) at DTI regional office here.

Dalayon, along with members of the banana industry cluster, submitted a proposal for its own research project to find ways to fight and control Panama wilt in the banana plantations run by small growers and farmers in the Davao region.

The research proposal was submitted as part of the second phase of the Davao Industry Cluster Capacity Enhancement Project or DICCEP-2, a joint project of JICA and DTI supported by government agencies, academe, local government agencies and private sector.

A complete research proposal was presented formally to JICA and DTI by Dr. Geronima Estimada, a plant scientist from the agro-research school Southern Philippines Agri-Business, Marine and Aquatic School of Technology (SPAMAST) in Davao del Sur.

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