Research-scientists found ACTICon™, a biopesticide product, effective in controlling Fusarium wilt or Panama disease. This deadly disease is caused by the fungal pathogen Fusarium oxysporum f.sp cubense (Foc), which typically attack Cavendish bananas.
Tropical race 4 (TR4) is the name given to the strains of this fungus. Like all other soil-dwelling Foc strains, TR4 cannot be controlled using fungicides and cannot be eradicated from soil using fumigants, according to scientific reports.
In a project funded and monitored by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD), research-scientists in Los Banos, Laguna were able to formulate ACTICon™, after conducting a series of laboratory experiments and field trials.
The project was implemented by the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB-BIOTECH) through its research-scientists Irene Alcantara-Papa and Teofila O. Zulaybar.
The research team screened 577 microbial isolates, of which 259 are Actinomycetes, 305 are Bacillus; and 13 are Endophytic fungi. Of the total Actinomycetes, 81 showed activity against F. oxysporum. These were further tested in the laboratory.
The final product, ACTICon™, is a mixture of actinomycetes. Actinomycetes are microbes naturally occurring in soil. The following properties associated to them might explain their ability to act as biocontrol tools: ability to colonize plant surface, the antibiosis against plant pathogens, the synthesis of particular extracellular proteins and degradation of phytotoxins.
Toxicological tests showed that Actinomycetes used in the ACTICon™ formulation are safe microbes. Similarly, they were able to survive the conditions in field experiments conducted in Sto. Tomas and Asuncion, Davao del Norte.
Field trials in a 100% Foc TR4-infected field showed that ACTICon™ was effective in controlling FocTR4. Mortality rates in ACTICon-treated bananas were 33.33% in Sto. Tomas and 24.24% in Asuncion. These rates were lower compared with the100% mortality in untreated plants.
These results indicate that ACTICon™ has high potential for controlling Fusarium wilt in banana. The researchers recommended more efficacy trials across Mindanao to further confirm its efficacy.