Learning about living organism for plant protection in Brunei Darussalam in seven questions

Plant Entomologist Ms. Amaniah Besar from Brunei Darussalam was one of the nine participants attending a five-day Regional Training Workshop on Mass Production of Beneficial Insects and Nematodes recently conducted in Bangkok, Thailand. When she was first approached for this interview, she was very modest and said that her country is new to biological control agents for crop protection and may not have much of good experiences to share with others.

After being insisted, Ms. Besar provided these introductory answers which readers could learn about Brunei Darussalam, its agriculture and production of  biological control agents in these seven questions.

Can you share with us the most eye opening experience you had since joining the workshop?

“The mass production of natural enemies is very new to us. The most eye-opening experience is on how easy and convenient it is to mass rear the beneficial insects and nematodes.  This does not only apply to the techniques, but also the equipment which are low-tech and easily available and cost-effective.”

Having worked in the pest management field in your country, what is new to you since joining the workshop? And, how do you think this experience/knowledge/skill will be useful to you once you go back to your country?

“Brunei Darussalam has tried mass rearing lady beetles but it was not successful. This is probably due to the fact that we had no hands-on training and the techniques were adopted and based on published papers from temperate regions. Therefore, this training workshop is the first time for the participants from Brunei Darussalam.

The system of mass rearing, the details, the step-by-steps procedures and other requirements are all new to us. The knowledge gained and the newly acquired skills are useful in filling the gaps in our mass rearing trials e.g. addition of honey as supplementary diet enhances the insect reproduction and survival in the mass rearing processes.  This could develop our trial a step further.

The mass rearing of entomopathogenic nematodes has never been done and totally new to the country, as we only work on parasitic nematodes.  It would also be of interest, if there is another group of nematodes that can control the parasitic ones.”

How popular is the use/application of biological control agents in your contry?

“Currently, Brunei Darussalam does not use any BCA [Biocontrol Agent] in our agricultural sector.  However, farmers are frequently advised or informed on the existence of these BCAs by educating them that some insects are not pest, and that they are beneficial to the farmers and their crops such as lady beetles, rove beetles, earwigs, dragonflies and spiders (although not Insecta).

What do you think are the obstacles that prevent biological control agents from being widely used or mass produced in your country?

“The benefit of Brunei Darussalam is that we can learn from other ASEAN Member States e.g. Brunei Darussalam know what BCA to mass rear and use against what selected pests/crops.  However, there are still certain issues or obstacles that we need to work on.

Selected case:  Mass rearing Trichogramma japonicum to use against Scirpophaga innotata in rice fields.

  • Proper identification of japonicum. Survey/ collection of naturally occurring T. japonicum in Brunei Darussalam.  Is the population enough to start mass rearing?  Should Brunei Darussalam introduce T. japonicum from other AMS, and the risk thereof?
  • Dedicated and skilled technicians to conduct mass rearing. The need to privatised?  Are there companies interested to mass rear?  Demands will probably be not as much, considering Brunei Darussalam’s agriculture sector is small.
  • Once mass rearing is a success, there is still a need to develop a demo plot to illustrate the effectiveness of BCAs against pest (Seeing is Believing). The mindset of farmers needs to be changed – away from the usage of past-knockout pesticides.”

How important is it for your country to upscale BCA production?

“It is important for Brunei Darussalam to start introducing the use of BCAs in the country.  Farmers need to reduce the heavy reliance on synthetic pesticides as these are detrimental to their health and safety, environment and also the consumers.  This issue has been raised in the recent Legislative Council, whereby the use of pesticide alternative is profoundly encouraged.  Brunei Government through the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood recognized the importance of BCA introduction and its application into our agricultural system.  As a start, the Department has conducted and produced an inventory of natural enemies of rice pests (via Consultancy Project) and has already submitted a paper work for training of its Agriculture offices and staff on mass rearing of natural enemies, and it is hoped that this will generate skilled technicians for this purpose.”

From your perspective, do you think this situation will change in the future? How?

“In the near future, we believe that the use of BCAs will be the answer and one of the important components of sustainable agriculture. With the increased awareness of consumers, especially the younger generation on the issues of pesticide usage and its hazard towards humans and the environment; and the growing niche market of organic/ pesticide free agricultural produce; there will be high demand of BCAs to accommodate these requirements.

This training itself will probably play a role in changing the situation for Brunei Darussalam.  With the enhancement of knowledge and skills, this will definitely improve the existing trials in the lab.  This is the key point whereby we can show the farmers on how BCAs work, the effectiveness in controlling pests and most importantly if we are able to convince them in terms of safety and low cost of BCAs compared to synthetic pesticides.”

What do you think is the most important institution that can trigger change in the biological control scene?

“Public Private Partnership is needed to trigger the change in BCA scene.  Cooperation between DoA [Department of Agriculture] and private companies in mass producing BCAs must be developed – if possible, companies should be as competitive as the synthetic pesticide manufacturing companies.  This does not only apply internally, but cooperation within the AMS [ASEAN Member States] is also highly encouraged.  It must be noted that this cooperation is established towards providing farmers with suitable and high quality BCAs at a lower cost (compared to synthetic pesticides).  Farmers need to be well educated/ aware of the importance of the sustainability of agricultural systems and how BCAs play a significant role in this matter.

In addition, for Brunei Darussalam’s case is that there is a need to establish a proper body/committee/board that is responsible for the BCAs as this will ease the implementation of regulation and application of BCAs in the country.”

Ms. Siti Amaniah Binti Haji Awang Besar is Plant Entomologist from Entomology Laboratory under Crop Protection Unit, Brunei Darussalam Agricultural Research Centre, Kilanas, Department of Agriculture and Agrifood, Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism, Brunei Darussalam

Nine participants from seven ASEAN countries recently attended a Regional Training Workshop on Mass Production of Beneficial Insects and Nematodes from 15-19 May 2017. Mostly, they were technical officers under the Department of Agriculture in their countries; namely Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Viet Nam.

The workshop consisted of lectures and hands-on practice on mass rearing of beneficial insects and entomopathogenic nematodes. It was expected that participants would gain knowledge and skills necessary to further develop and implement mass production of biological control agents in their own countries.  The workshop was organized by ASEAN Sustainable Agrifood Systems (ASEAN SAS) project in collaboration with Plant Protection Research and Development Office (PPRDO), Department of Agriculture, Thailand.

By Natasha Angsakulchai and Rojana Manowalailao, ASEAN Sustainable Agrifood Systems

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