Preventing pests and diseases through Trichoderma

DSC 0525In an effort to mitigate the hazardous effects of using chemical pesticides in agriculture, the government institutionalized the practice of organic farming through Republic Act No. 10068 otherwise known as the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010.

Organic agriculture is a “holistic production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity,” according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Thus, biological control agents (BCA) are used in place of chemical pesticides in managing pests and diseases in organic crops. BCA are insects or organisms that suppress pest or pathogen. Examples are microbials which are composed of microorgarnisms such as fungi, bacteria and viruses that suppress the effects of pests and diseases.

In Cordillera, the Bureau of Plant Industry-Baguio National Crop Research, Development and Production Support Center (BPI-BNCRDPSC) conducted a study titled “Enhancing the Utilization of Microbials and Botanicals for Organic Agriculture in support to Organic Stakeholders in the Cordillera Administrative Region.” Funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research, the project was aimed to identify the most suitable BCA and botanicals in the region that would increase the income of their farmers.

What is Trichoderma?

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One of the biocontrol agents that they studied is the Trichoderma. These are “free-living fungi that are common in soil and root ecosystems,” according to experts. It “comprises a great number of fungal strains that act as biological control agents, the antagonistic properties of which are based on the activation of multiple mechanisms.

Trichoderma strains exert biocontrol against fungal phytopathogens either indirectly, by competing for nutrients and space, modifying the environmental conditions, or promoting plant growth and plant defensive mechanisms and antibiosis, or directly, by mechanisms such as mycoparasitism,” as explained by experts.

Trichoderma can be used for different vegetables such as potato, cabbage, garden peas, bush beans, etc., according to Ms. Rhonda M. Oloan, a member of the research team. She also clarified that it can be used to suppress or manage most of the soil borne diseases of highland vegetables.

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Producing Trichoderma at the village level

After the evaluation trials on-station and on-farm, the research team started to mass produce the microbials (e.g. Trichoderma) for distribution to farmers whose land were infected with soil borne diseases and infested with potato cyst nematode. More so, the technologies generated through their research were disseminated to the farmers through conduct of trainings and field days and distribution of information, education and communication materials.

“Sa katunayan ‘yong [isang] farmer cooperator namin ay nagpro-produce na ng kanyang sariling microbial o Trichoderma na ‘yon din ang ginagamit niyang pang-control do’n sa mga sakit sa field niya. Ito rin [ipinapamahagi] niya sa mga kasama niyang farmers,” said Ms. Oloan. This farmer cooperator is Ms. Geraldine Bascos from Bauko, Mt. Province. She has been using Trichoderma in her farm since October 2015. The use of the said microbial was introduced to her by the BPI-BNCRDC. After a year of using Trichoderma on her farm, she started to notice the improvement on her crops. She said, “may pagbabago naman sa tanim namin na patatas, maganda na ‘yong tubo at saka ‘yong mga [stunted] na patatas lumaki na.”

In 2017, she already started producing her own Trichoderma using the pure culture that she outsourced from BPI-BNCRDC after attending a seminar conducted by them. She said, “iyong ginagamit ko ngayon na Trichoderma ako na ang gumagawa pero kapag naubusan ako ng oras na gumawa [ng Trichoderma] humihingi ako sa BPI.”

She also encourages fellow farmers in the region to use this microbial in their farm by saying that, “sipag at tiyaga ang ating gugulin kasi talagang matrabaho siya [pertaining to the production and application of Trichoderma]. Pero kung talagang may tiyaga ka male-lessen ‘yong mga problema sa farm na ating tinatamnan.”

The impact of the research in Cordillera

After disseminating the generated technologies, the research team was able to notice that more farmers are now aware on how to use these BCAs on their farms.

According to Ms. Oloan, they are now more aware especially those who have organic farms on how to manage pests and diseases. She also added that through this research, there are already other organic growers in the region who could produce their own Trichoderma. In addition, she said, “iyong ibang farmers napansin nila na unti-unti nang tumataas ang kita nila. [Ang] paggamit naman ng microbial ay hindi instant ‘yan.” ### (Rena S. Hermoso)

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