Bunchy top virus-resistant abaca hybrid

MANILA — I first heard about banana bunchy top virus (BBTV) from a Department of Science and Technology (DOST) official months ago. Until I found out that bunchy top virus can also be found in abaca.

According to Wikipedia, abaca bunchy top virus (ABTV) is a pathogenic plant virus of Nanoviridae. It said that it has many similarities to BBTV, but is both genetically and serogically distinct.

Wikipedia also cited that ABTV was first detected in 1915 in Silang, Cavite. It has since spread to different provinces, and has damaged more than 8,000 hectares of abaca plantations in 2002 alone.

The year 2015 wasn’t an exception, as the abaca industry still faced the problem on ABTV, according to the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), an attached agency of DOST.

Good thing is that researchers from the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB), after many years of field tests and study, was able to develop ABTV-resistant and high yielding abaca hybrids.

PCAARRD said adoption of this kind of abaca hybrids could help the abaca farmers with their problem, as well as improve their income.

The project on abaca production was actually a collaboration among UPLB, Visayas State University, University of Southern Mindanao, Western Mindanao State University, Bicol University, Caraga State University, University of Southeastern Philippines, Catanduanes State University, University of Eastern Philippines, and the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority.

The agency added that abaca hybrids are promising in the rehabilitation of abaca plantations, especially because traditional varieties are susceptible to ABTV.

These abaca hybrids have been found to be healthier, and can produce yield of 1.56 metric tons per hectare annually, according to PCAARRD. Moreover, the hybrid abacas give 20-30 percent higher fiber recovery than traditional varieties.

So this year, the UPLB research team led by Antonio Lalusin had mass produced and promoted the use of abaca hybrids in major abaca-producing provinces such as Sorsogon, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Catanduanes, Northern and Western Samar, Davao Oriental, Davao del Sur, Surigao del Sur and Sulu.

Once this project is fully commercialized, it would target 1,568 hectares of abaca farms for rehabilitation.

PCAARRD believes that rehabilitating abaca farms with these ABTV-resistant and high yielding hybrids would pave way for bigger opportunities for the local farmers and the whole industry. Ma. Cristina C. Arayata/PNA/northboundasia.com