Eldrin De Los Reyes Arguelles, University Researcher I, has been chosen as UPLB's Outstanding Researcher in the Natural Sciences, Junior REPS Category for 2018
Ms. Adora M. de Castro, Lab Tech II, is UPLB's Outstanding Administrative Personnel, Technician Category for 2018
BIOTECH staff and officials celebrate the 2016 UPLB Loyalty Day in full force
Dr. Alcantara has contributed significantly to the implementation of a proactive approach to insect resistance management for transgenic maize in the Philippines.
Dr. Aggangan has contributed significantly to researches on mycorrhizal fungi as an alternative to chemical fertilizers for reforestation species; development and commercialization of MYKOVAM.
The BIOTECH Building, which was initially called the Ferdinand E. Marcos Center for Biotechnology and Applied Microbiology, is located inside the 77.7 hectare Agricultural and Life Sciences Complex at UP Los Baños
BIOTECH products are cost-effective and cheaper alternatives to conventional products, making use of locally available materials which are safer to the environment
Awarding of ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management Services (QMS) to BIOTECH
Dr. Mercado was awarded as KKP-STI Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension



Farmers see relief from fusarium wilt

by Stella A. Estremera (Sunstar, July 27, 2013)


A GROUP of farmers are claiming to have emasculated the dreaded fusarium wilt and are now observing the regrowth of healthy banana plants on fusarium-infested soil using a biofertilizer developed by the National Institute of Microbiology and Biotechnology (Biotech) at the University of the Philippines in Los Banos (UPLB): Mykovam.

The one-hectare land planted to lacatan and cardaba bananas of farmer Federico Bohol, 51, in sitio San Miguel, Barangay Katipunan in Panabo City is among the many banana farms that has been attacked by the fusarium wilt. Around Bohol’s farm are other farms now planted with vegetables that were once banana farms attacked by fusarium.


According to Dr. Alexis de Manuel, president of Adam Farms Inc. in Kidapawan and owner of the JM Poultry and Livestock Supply stores in Davao, Digos, and Tagum cities, and in Agusan del Sur, Bohol told him of the financial losses he incurred because of Fusarium and that he will be suffering more because he had to abandon the farm.


As defined in a paper sent by Department of Agriculture 11 Regional Executive Director Remelyn R. Recoter when asked about DA’s program against the disease: “Fusarium wilt, also known as Panama disease, is a disease that affects banana and other members of the musa family. This disease is caused by a fungal pathogen, fusarium oxysporum. The pathogen is very virulent and appears to be naturally occurring in the tropics. Modern banana breeds, which are reproduced asexually are at a disadvantaged being nearly identical genetically. Once the fungus overcomes the plant’s defenses, it can quickly infect the whole cultivated area.”


“Ang sulti sa amo nga ang area na matamaan ng fusarium, 30 years pa kuno bago matanuman balik og saging (We were told that it will take 30 years before bananas can be replanted again on soil attacked by fusarium),” Bohol said in an interview at his farm.

In his conversation with Dr. de Manuel, however, de Manuel encouraged him to chop down the infected trees and put Mykovam on the soil to nourish it back.


“What’s P150 for your whole farm,” de Manuel said.


De Manuel has a fruit farm and has been using Mykovam and claims to have substantially reduced his expenses while increasing his harvest by at least two times. For his one-time application of Mykovam in 2005, he used one kilo per 100 trees, which is equivalent to one kilo per hectare.

Using tissue-culture as well as suckers from chopped down plants, Bohol replanted and observed a healthy growth.

They planned on making Bohol’s farm as their experiment so as to compare with the farms beside it that still had bananas but stand the risk of being infected with fusarium as all around the sitio are abandoned and farms that have been converted to other cash crops. But the farm right next to Bohol’s also applied Mykovam and is now seeing the regrowth of healthy bananas.


“Balak sana namin na yung kapitbahay ang control, kaya lang ang may-ari noon, nagsabi rin sa akin tungkol sa problema niya sa fusarium at sinabi ko na dahil ia-abandon mo na lang rin, lagyan mo muna ng Mykovam,” de Manuel said, not realizing that the person talking to him owns the farm beside Bohol’s. Now both farms have healthy bananas.


Microbiologist Dr. Nelly S. Aggangan of Biotech stressed that the fungus Fusarium oxysporum is still in the soil except that the “good fungus” that make up Mykovam is apparently protecting the plant.


“Para rin yang mga good bacteria and bad bacteria, the fusarium fungus is still there except that the good fungus is protecting the plant,” she told the farmers from all over Davao del Norte who gathered at Bohol’s farm to see for themselves how the bananas are responding to Mykovam.


Back to basics

In an separate interview with Atty. Koronado Apuzen, executive director of the Foundation for Agrarian Reform Cooperatives in Mindanao (Farmcoop), which is slowly weaning away their member agrarian reform beneficiaries from high-chemical farming, the scourge of fusarium wilt is but the effect of soil that has lost all its nutrients.


“Fusarium wilt is brought about by high nutrient levels in acidic soils brought about by unabated use of pesticides,” he said. “That is a fungal disease that attacks the roots.”


There is no other way out of the scourge but to go back to the basics, Apuzen said.


“Restore soil health, go back to the basics, put back the life of soil with microorganisms,” he added.


Apuzen said they did try Mykovam sometime in 2007, but they did not observe substantial change to their farms and so did not try it any further.

Mykovam, which is sold exclusively in the region and San Francisco, Agusan del Sur by JM Poultry at just P150 per kilo and is recommended to be applied at 10 grams (one tansan) per plant or tree to be fertilized, was developed by Biotech in the early 2000s but never became commercialized until Biotech met Dr. de Manuel.


It is a soil-based biofertilizer with effective species of a fungi called vesicular arbuscular mycorrhiza, which infects the roots of plants and assist the plant in the absorption of water and nutrients. It also helps prevent root infection by pathogens and increase an inoculated plant’s tolerance to drought, the pamphlet on Mykovam reads.


Healthy soils

Aggangan explains that a healthy soil has a lot of microorganisms with a specific role. The mycorrhizae’s role is to nourish plants. But it took long hours and uncountable microorganisms before they finally isolated mycorrhizae and understood its symbiotic relationship to plants.

Their first Mykovam only had three stains of the mycorrhizae, she said, now it has seven making it even more efficient as a biofertilizer.


“The fungi live just outside the root hairs, absorbing from its own immediate environs the water, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper and other mineral nutrients. It then stores these absorbed minerals in the vesicles, which serve as its food storage organ that is located inside the root hairs. The fungi also have another specialized organ that develops inside the root hairs called arbuscules, which is the site of nutrient exchange between the fungi and the plant. This is where the fungi absorb the photosynthetically-produced carbohydrates of the plant for use as its energy source, and the water and other minerals that were absorbed by the fungi are delivered to the plant,” the brochure said.


Simply stated, this beneficial fungus attaches to a plant so that it can derive carbohydrates, which the plant produces. In turn, the plant becomes healthy because the fungus absorbs the nutrients a plant needs and stores these in the plant’s roots.


Aggangan said it is the mandate of their institute to develop biofertilizers to help farmers reduce their dependence on expensive chemical inputs. Their research and development, however, are not paired substantially with marketing, thus their biofertilizers rarely flood the market.

They were only able to go on a commercial scale when they partnered with de Manuel, who discovered them by accident.


De Manuel recalled that in 2005, he spent a total of P300,000 on inorganic fertilizers for his fruit farm.


“I remember that it was P300,000 because I sold my L300 van then for P300,000 and the whole amount went to buying inorganic fertilizers,” he said. He knew he could not sustain operations because he has no way of getting another P300,000 to fertilize his whole farm.


So he researched and by chance learned about Biotech and Mykovam.


He went to UPLB to seek out the institute and returned with his biofertilizers.


On the first harvest after application, he said, his coconuts were producing thrice the normal harvest.


“Binalikan ko sila at sinabi kong magbabayad ako ng utang na loob, sabihin niyo lang anong pwede kong gawin para sa inyo,” he said. Dr. Aggangan asked him if he can help market their product, and he did.


Aggangan said that the fungi myccorrhizae benefits just about every plant, whether this be fruit trees or vegetables, except those belonging to the crucifer family like cabbage, radish, pechay, broccoli, and the likes as well as pine trees because for some reason, these plants do not have a symbiotic relationship with this type of fungi. It also cannot be used for lowland rice because it is an aerobic microorganism and needs air. It will drown in a rice paddy.


She encourages farmers to inoculate their plants so as to make them resistant to the fusarium scourge especially because this banana disease is spreading very fast.


At present, fusarium wilt is a major concern that is capable of wiping away the whole banana industry as it did in Panama when it was first identified in the 1950s. Today’s fusarium wilt, however, is worse because used to be, the local varieties like lakatan, latundan, cardaba, and saba were seemingly resistant to it. Not anymore. Thus the scourge is crippling even poor farmers who have barely any means to fight the disease, much less abandon their farms for the soil to recover.


Thus, while still in its experimental stage, small farmers from Asuncion, Laak, Kapalong trekked to Bohol’s farm last Tuesday to see what they regard as a glimmer of hope to the sufferings they are going through these days.


De Manuel said his only intention is to help the farmers and popularize what he perceives as a product of a scientific institute that stands to help the poor farmers the most, but has not been given proper marketing support.

( http://www.sunstar.com.ph/weekend-davao/2013/07/27/farmers-see-relief-fusarium-wilt )


National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIbiotech logoTECH)

University of the Philippines Los Baños

College, Laguna 403l, Philippines

Tel. Nos. 536-1620, 536-2721, 536-2725; Fax No. (049) 536-2721

Email: biotech.uplb@up.edu.ph, biotech@uplb.edu.ph

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