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Coconut Scale Threatens Food Security in Philippines

Posted by feww on June 9, 2014

CLIMATE CHANGE
CROP DISASTER
FOOD SECURITY THREAT
COCONUT SCALE INSECT INFESTATION
STATE OF EMERGENCY
SCENARIO 123
.

State of Emergency Declared in Philippines as Coconut Scale Insect Infests Million Trees

Coconut scale insects have infested more than a million trees in the country, which are in danger of dying, according to the Philippine Coconut Authority.

The insects have also infested lanzones and banana plants in several regions—Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) and Basilan in Mindanao.

The Philippine President has declared a state of emergency in five provinces so far, but may extend the coverage due to the scale of disaster.

“If the spread of this invasive pest is not contained, it may wipe out the coconut industry not just in Calabarzon but eventually in the rest of the country,” said the president in his executive order declaring the state of emergency.

The loss to the Philippine coconut industry could amount to more than US$ 1 billion.

USDA 5459318-s
Coconut scale Aspidiotus destructor Signoret. Photo credit: Bernhard Loehr/ Bugwood.org

“It is serious enough to ask for emergency measures… If we don’t address this, it could spread to the Bicol region, and also in the Zamboanga peninsula,” said the Presidential Assistant for Food Security. 

The infestation was first reported in 2010 but the authorities failed to stop the spread.  Coconut scale insects are wind-borne and can easily spread to other regions, experts say.

The armored scale insects, known scientifically as Aspidiotus destructor Signoret (Hemiptera: familia Diaspididae), are tiny plant parasites, causing yellowing or chlorosis, wilting, premature nutfall (in coconut) and low yield because they siphons off the plant sap.

The coconut scale is a common pest of coconut and banana, but it also infests other trees and plants including avocado, bird of paradise, breadfruit, ginger, guava, mango, mock orange, mountain apple, palm, papaya, pandanas, plumeria and sugarcane.

The parasite is common to tropical and subtropical regions, especially on islands. The insects have been found in American Samoa, Fiji, French Polynesia, Hawaii, Irian Jaya, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Is., Sri Lanka, Vanuatu and Western Samoa, and now the Philippine islands.

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