With the continuing spread of the Pestalotiopsis Secondary Leaf Fall Disease on major natural rubber producing countries, the National Banner Program Committee on High Value Crops-Rubber discussed during its first quarter meeting on February 24, 2022 the possible interventions to prevent and monitor its entry into the country.

The Committee invited International Rubber Research and Development Board Fellow Tajuddin Ismail to elaborate on Pestalotiopsis’ potential impacts on rubber crop and yield.

Pestalotiopsis, a fungal disease causing severe secondary leaf fall, re-emerged after 10 decades in Indonesia last 2016 and is now also affecting other Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. 

According to Ismail’s report, the total area affected as of November 2020 was 520,000 ha which significantly reduced canopy density up to 90% and latex yield up to 50%. However, no currently planted rubber clones were found to be resistant to Pestalotiopsis.

In case of an outbreak, Ismail recommended the immediate spraying of fungicides on contaminated trees and the blocking of the affected areas to prevent further spreading.

The Committee also proposed that the Philippine Rubber Research Institute (PRRI) spearhead the creation of a Technical Working Group (TWG) that will conduct necessary research and development studies on Pestalotiopsis and other rubber tree diseases and help prevent their possible entry into the country. 

Initially, the proposed members of the TWG includes the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development, the Department of Agriculture-High Value Crops Development Program (DA-HVCDP), the University of Southern Mindanao, PRRI, and key rubber industry stakeholders.

Other resolutions passed during the meeting were the adoption of DA-HVCDP and PRRI FY 2022 Plan and Budget for the rubber industry and the revision of the certification standards on new rubber clones by the Bureau of Plant and Industry, through the National Seed Industry Council, to simplify the criteria for the fast-tracking of registration. | JCL