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Panel discussion

The panel discussion focused on “Update of recommendations of expert consultation on coconut beetle outbreak in APPPC member countries, 26-27 October 2004, Bangkok, Thailand”. The panelists were Dr P. Rethinam (Chair), Mr Wilco Liebregts, Dr Tran Tan Viet, Dr Chalerm Sindhusake and Dr Peter A.C. Ooi.

Recommendation 1

Adopt a regional approach to develop a programme on Coconut Beetle Management for Asia and the Pacific with FAO providing a coordinating forum to enable individual member countries as well as neighbouring non-member countries, to plan and strengthen an ecologically sound IPM programme for the palm industry (including coconut). To further this objective, it is imperative that FAO, the APCC, donor communities (including the Common Fund for Commodities) and member countries of the Asia and Pacific Plant Protection Commission (APPPC) work together to develop a comprehensive programme to ensure that the coconut industry will continue to symbolize a tropical agro-biodiversity haven that mirrors sustainable development for poverty alleviation through farmer education using a Farmer Field School approach.

Appreciating that national governments and international agencies should work together towards developing a comprehensive programme for an ecologically sound IPM programme, and further recognizing that this forum will provide a platform to coordinate efforts for the sharing of experiences and consolidate the achievements made to date, the meeting recommends that further efforts be made to strengthen the taxonomy of the hispine beetles found on palms and enhance the exploration for and use of microbial agents in a sustainable manner.

Recommendation 2

The meeting noted that a regional programme will accelerate classical biological control implementation; reduce cost; enhance sustainability through optimizing of resources, sharing of experiences and knowledge, avoiding pitfalls, exchanging biological control agents and promoting better understanding among countries in Asia and the Pacific.

The meeting recognized that while there is a need to accelerate the implementation of classical biological control, there is an urgent need to address three needs generated by the incidence of the coconut leaf beetle and hence the type of interventions:

  1. The need to carry out classical biological control quickly in areas where the beetle is already present
  2. The need for containment of the beetle when it is first detected as an invasive species
  3. The provision of appropriate information to countries facing invasion so that quarantine services can be better prepared to prevent the arrival of the species

In this respect, it was suggested that centres of excellence for the management of palm hispine beetles be planned and established to enhance the skills and capabilities of national scientists to meet the challenges of invasive species. It was further clarified that this does not mean maintaining a culture of the biological control agents but rather having centres that are able and ready to assist countries that request them. These biological control agents can be recovered from the field and numbers produced for despatch to recipient countries. Such activities will greatly reflect the strength of the network.

Recommendation 3

The meeting further recommended that individual countries should strengthen their own databases of crop pests and natural enemies, conduct independent impact assessments to facilitate an enabling environment for both biological control and IPM and further strengthen the regulatory framework of plant quarantine and pesticide management with concurrent activities for enhancing the capacity of extension staff.

The meeting further supported the recommendation on setting up a database to strengthen pest alert notifications. A regional cooperation programme will greatly enhance such capacity building and database access.

Recommendation 4

The meeting appreciated the discussion on rearing techniques for the biological control agent of Brontispa longissima and confirmed compliance with the guidelines of the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM) #2 and #3 and the guidelines for the rearing and release of Asecodes. hispinarum. The need for greater public awareness and farmers’ participation in classical biological control was highlighted. The meeting further concurred with the need to study the ecology of both insects to ascertain the impact of this biological control effort in each country and incorporation of the results in an overall regional IPM programme that may follow.

Recognizing that different countries have varying levels of experiences and capacity to conduct biological control, the meeting recommended that capacity building should be addressed at three levels:

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