UPLB research on improved eggplant varieties, a success

Dr. Merdelyn C. Lit of the Institute of Plant Breeding, Crop Science Cluster of the College of Agriculture, UP Los Baños, who served as the project leader of three research projects on eggplant was pleased to report the major findings of these projects.

Dr. Lit reported that results of their findings provided valuable information on the resistance of hundreds of eggplant genotypes and wild relatives against leafhopper and shoot/fruit borer, two current major insect pests of eggplant. Several screening trials were conducted in UPLB, Laguna, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan and Batangas.

The Vegetable Breeding Group of the Institute developed two eggplant varieties, A-300, locally named Mistisa, and Mara, and these were included in the screening trials. These two varieties were found to be moderately resistant to major pests and yielded high under pest pressure. These varieties are now favorably accepted by farmers and consumers in the country. EG300, Abar and SRO2 and several other off-type native eggplant varieties were also found promising against these pests. These local races of eggplant were initially collected from rural areas around the country.

Further, the researcher had developed efficient field and greenhouse techniques for Host Plant Resistance (HPR) screening of the varieties. The UPLB researcher identified the production areas where farmers had been receptive to the HPR-based cropping system approach, and in these areas, it was observed that the HPR-based strategy matched the other control methods in enhancing the population of natural enemies by the minimal use or avoidance of insecticidal sprays. HPR tactic was also found compatible with cultural control strategies such as planting other crops and cover/companion crops inside or around the areas, the practice of regulated weeding to conserve soil moisture and allow the presence of some weeds in the crop area to serve as refuge for beneficial pests.

On-farm trials in the provinces where the research activities were held led to an effective approach in generating scientific information on insect pest management under farmers’ field conditions. What made the research meaningful was that the farmers’ participation was strong throughout the stages of project implementation where they directly participated in the hands-on conduct of the screening trials using the above IPM technologies and strategies.

The team summed up that using resistant varieties and planting a mixture of several cultivars/varieties in combination with the other control strategies, as well as grafting technique can effectively reduce pest populations in eggplant.

Two of the three research projects: “Evaluation of the Performance of Selected Eggplant Cultivars with Resistance to the Shoot/Fruit borer, Leafhopper and Bacterial Wilt in Farmer’s Field in Balete, Batangas” and “Combined Resistance of Eggplant, Solanum melongena L. to the Leafhopper, Amrasca biguttula (Ishida) and the Eggplant Borer, Leucinodes orbonalis Guenee” got fund support from the Integrated Pest Management Collaborative Research Support Program (IPM-CRSP), Virginia Tech and PhilRice under USAID Grant No. LAG-G-00-93-00053-00. The third project “Identification of Eggplant Varieties Resistant to Leafhopper, Shoot/Fruit Borer, Thrips, Phomopsis Blight and Bacterial Wilt” was funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) of the Department of Agriculture. (Rosario G. Gabatin)