Dr. Celia DR Medina inspects a cacao tree for pests during a farm visit.
Dr. Celia DR Medina inspects a cacao tree for pests during a farm visit.

Prof. Johnny Balidion critics the wrapping of plastic in the cacao pods and suggested use of thicker plastic and proper tying.
Prof. Johnny Balidion critics the wrapping of plastic in the cacao pods and suggested use of thicker plastic and proper tying.

Dr. Amihan Arquiza speaks before the participants during the cacao crop, pest and disease management training.
Dr. Amihan Arquiza speaks before the participants during the cacao crop, pest and disease management training.

Participants during the cacao crop, pest and disease management training. Also present in the picture is DOST NegOr PSTD Atty. Gilbert R. Arbon (1st row, center in blue polo shirt) and Dr. Johnny Balidion (4th from right).
Participants during the cacao crop, pest and disease management training. Also present in the picture is DOST NegOr PSTD Atty. Gilbert R. Arbon (1st row, center in blue polo shirt) and Dr. Johnny Balidion (4th from right).

Dumaguete City – Close to 40 participants from different parts of Negros Oriental province attended the 2-day training on cacao crop, pest and disease management.

Students and teachers from the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery of Negros Oriental State University (NORSU-CAFF), cacao farmers, farm technicians, agricultural technicians from LGUs and farm owners participated on the said activity.

The said event was held at the audio visual room of the College of Nursing, Pharmacy and Allied Health Sciences of NORSU.

No less than 3 scientists from the University of the Philippines – Los Baños served as the activity’s resource persons.

Dr. Celia Medina, renowned entomologist and instrumental in the control and management of the cocolisap bugs which infected coconut trees, discussed on cacao insect pests and their management. According to Dr. Medina, aphids, pachryrchid beetles, mealy bugs, mired bugs and cacao crop borers are identified insect pests for cacao. She further said that some of them have many natural insect enemies, some occur rarely, others do not decrease yield, while there are some which cause major yield reduction.

Among these pests, she added, the cacao pod borer is considered a major yield-reducing pest. She stressed that regular complete harvesting of infected pods is a must then putting them inside a sealed plastic bag before burying in the ground.

Dr. Amihan Arquiza, horticulturist, discussed on cacao crop productivity and sustainable management. In her lecture, she said that different cacao varieties grow depending on the types of soil, climate and elevation. She said that cacao farmers should take pride of their contribution because cacao is the raw materials of the multibillion chocolate industry and even had a number of nonfood uses including in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry. She stressed that the province should establish or maintain its own certified budwood garden or scion grove.

To increase yield, one should use fertilizer, practice pruning of unwanted branches and leaves, intercrop cacao with coconut and other identified plants, use pheromone traps against pod borers, and use of natural ecological workers in the cacao farms like spiders and insects, among others.

Prof. Johnny Balidion, plant pathologist, discussed common cacao diseases and how to manage them. “Use of disease-free planting materials lessens cacao disease problems. Proper information on the varieties to be planted is crucial for start-ups. Several varieties of clones should be established in the farm. Good crop husbandry is a must. Judicious use of fungicides must be based on the identified need. Disease management scheme should match target market. Cacao farming is a business….not as a production activity”, he stressed.

The activity was made possible in cooperation between DOST Negros Oriental, DA Negros Oriental PATCO, NORSU, Negros Oriental Cacao Council and Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc.

Asked on why the training was held, Provincial S&T Director Atty. Gilbert R. Arbon said “Cacao farming in Negros Oriental has been expanding in recent years. However, farm productivity has not been maximized. This may be due to improper crop management, including poor management of water and soil nutrients as well as lack of pruning and height control. Pests and diseases may also be to blame for the low production. There is therefore a need for the local growers to know the appropriate technological solutions available to them”.  (Engr. Reinhold Jek Y. Abing, DOST Negros Oriental S& Media Service)