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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Filipino breeders develop world’s pioneering organically grown eggplant

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The world’s pioneering organically-grown eggplant has been produced by Filipino breeders, ushering in a new agriculture age of nature-friendly, biodiversity-enhancing, and pesticide-free vegetable production.

Breeders at the Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB) have proven in the fields that it is possible to produce an eggplant that will omit the use of harmful insecticide spray.

Abstinence in spray is particularly effective even while fighting the lepidopteran eggplant pest fruit and shoot borer (FSB) — a highly destructive pest that can wipe out as much as 100% of a harvest.

It is now achievable through the use of Bt – Bacillus thuringiensis – technology.

The single most important benefit of Bt eggplant is it protects human health – first, that of farmers and also of consumers – who no longer have to ingest toxin-laden vegetable.

Yet, equally important, Bt eggplant can be grown without any adverse impact on the environment. Non-spraying will save the environment from persistent pollutants.

Bt eggplant can even enhance biodiversity as beneficial insects — bees, spiders, beetles – will continue to thrive while growing it.

A first study ever evaluating the impact of Bt eggplant growing on biodiversity has been released by the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).

It was published in a peer-reviewed journal – the Public Library of Science or PLOS.

It showed numerous insects can flourish while Bt eggplant grows.

An abundance of these herbivores (plant-eating animal) were found – Bemisia tabaci (silverleaf whitefly), Amrasca biguttula (Indian cotton jassid), Solenopsis geminata (fire ant), Tettigonidae (bush crickets or long-horned grasshoppers), and Phycita sp. (Lepidoptera).

Predators found were Araneae (spiders), Coccinellidae (small beetles, ladybird), Campylomma sp., (silent leaf runner cricket), and Formicidae (ants).

These are the parasitoids and pollinators – Hymenoptera (sawflies,wasps, bees, ants), Ichneumonid wasp, Xylocopa sp (carpenter bee), and Apis sp. (European honey bee).

“Our data document species abundance, diversity and community dynamics in composition and structure of canopy-dwelling arthropods and soil micro-fauna in Bt and non-Bt eggplants,” reported scientists led by Manuel V. Navasero of the National Crop Protection Center-UPLB.

The presence of beneficial insects in Bt eggplant fields has become of interest to scientists, curious that the technology may have an adverse impact on biodiversity.

Insects traditionally have beneficial biodiversity functions – pollination (in the reproduction or flowering of  plants), decomposition (degrading materials to turn for other functions such as  fertilizers), and biological control (against pests in growing plants).

While allowing beneficial insects to prosper, Bt eggplant may be grown without insecticide spray against FSB. A related study showed nearly zero damage on non-sprayed Bt eggplants.

“Under such severe pest pressure, the Bt eggplant lines showed less than 1% FSB shoot damage, less than 2%, fruit damage and fewer FSB larvae  at less than 11 larva per plot per harvest,” according to IPB breeders led by Desiree M. Hautea.

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