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DOST scientists reap awards for pioneering research on mangoes

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By Martin A. Sadongdong

Three agriculture specialists from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) bagged the 2017 Presidential Lingkod Bayan Regional Award by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) recently for their pioneering work in enhancing the quality of Filipino mango exports.

The Science agency said Glenda Obra, Scientist I and head of the DOST-Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) Agriculture Research Section, along with Sotero Resilva, Science Research Specialist; and Luvimina Lanuza, head of the PNRI Irradiation Services Section, received the award for being part of the Mango Weevil Research Team, which utilized irradiation as a quarantine treatment against the mango pulp weevil.

Mango pulp weevil (Sternochetus frigidus) is an exotic pest that “tunnels” into the flesh of mangoes which make them not fit for consumption. The mango pest looks similar to mango seed weevil, but eats the flesh rather than the seed.

Counterparts from the Department of Agriculture (DA) – Dr. Louella Lorenzana, Edison Bauzon and Elvira Litan – were also part of the award-winning group of DOST-PNRI’s researchers.

Quarantine treatment

The DOST said the team developed a quarantine treatment which involves exposing the mangoes to gamma irradiation, the first and only one of its kind in the world for mango pulp weevil.

“Based on PNRI’s research studies, a minimum radiation dose of 165 gray (Gy) is enough to make the adult mango weevil sterile, providing sufficient quarantine security for Philippine Super Mangoes,” the DOST said.

“The irradiation treatment is also more cost-effective than the conventional vapor heat treatment, saving farmers up to half a million pesos per hectare,” it added.

The DOST said that quarantine pests such as the mango pulp weevil prevent the country’s mango exports from entering international markets such as the United States and other countries with strict quarantine regulations.

“The wasted potential aggravates the economic woes of the local mango growers and exporters who contribute a substantial share of the Philippines’ total agricultural exports,” the science department explained.

This prompted a cooperation agreement late in 2006 between the PNRI, the DA and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop the quarantine treatment aiming to allow Filipino mango exports to enter the United States.

The DOST said that after years of research and public consultations, the quarantine treatment was finally approved in 2014 in the United States and subsequently published under a final rule in the US Federal Register. As per the final rule, the Philippines also succeeded in getting the US government to recognize most of the mango-producing regions of the country as pulp weevil and seed weevil-free areas.

The success of the research was also reflected by its inclusion in the USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine Treatment Manual, and the treatment will eventually be used in all countries with the mango pulp weevil, particularly in Southeast Asia, the DOST remarked.

The Presidential Lingkod Bayan is one of the three categories of CSC’s Search for Outstanding Government Workers which aims to recognize public service exemplars for their outstanding work performance.

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