Prescription for ‘plantitos’, ‘plantitas’: Sick plants need their own doctors, too

For all newbie plant parents out there, it would be wise to keep in mind that plants, like all living things, get sick, too, and are vulnerable to attack from other organisms. When this happens, it’s best to listen to the experts on the best action to take.

On September 11, at the 17th episode of “Stories for a Better Normal: Pandemic and Climate Pathways,” the topic “The Plant Doctors are In!” featured plant and tree experts sharing tips and advice supporting plant and tree health, such as managing common plant pests and diseases using natural methods and managing tree hazards through arboricultural interventions.

The online conversation hosted by House Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda featured plant doctors Lysette Lacambra, Technical Specialist of the East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer; Dr. Aimee Lynn Dupo, Entomologist and Professor from the Institute of Biological Sciences (IBS), University of the Philippines Los Baños (CAS-UPLB); and Dr. Armando Palijon, Forester and former Professor of the Institute of Renewable and Natural Resources (IRNR), College of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of the Philippines Los Baños (CFNR-UPLB).

Lacambra discussed the challenges in managing common insect pests and diseases found in the garden, as well as urged home-based plant growers (“plantitos” and “plantitas”) to practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) by using natural pest control mechanisms.

“A symptom is caused by many potential suspects, so you need to investigate and diagnose the problem to arrive at the right solution. You should always consider IPM for your solutions. But do remember that IPM is not one-size-fits-all, so what works in the Philippine setting may not be applicable in other countries,” she said.

Dupo discussed the  connection between an entomologist and plant pathologist, and also gave pointers to manage different kinds of insect pests in the garden.

“In our gardens, we don’t remove all insects. It’s natural to have insects because we put food there for them to eat. So, we can’t stop them from visiting our gardens. What we can do is to manage their numbers,” she explained.

A slide from Lacambra’s presentation discusses possible causes of disease in plants

Palijon explained the symptoms of defective trees, as well as discussed managing tree risks or hazards through arboricultural interventions, such as correcting and treatment of pruning wounds, treating tree cavities, and cabling and bracing. He also stressed the importance of tree architecture and the benefits we could get from healthy trees.

“I would like to emphasize that healthy trees that are free from defects are assets to the landscape because of their ecological, social, economic, aesthetic, and amenity benefits. We know for a fact that trees store a lot of carbon which help us in mitigating global and local warming,” he said.

Legarda shared that during the CoViD-19 pandemic, many people discovered the joy and value of growing plants and vegetables in their own homes. As a certified “plantita”, she also showed some of the native trees and plants she grew in her own farm and garden.

She expressed that she would add a provision in her “Better Normal Bill” to highlight the importance of ensuring healthy, well-maintained trees as vital components of public infrastructure.

“In the better normal, we not only take care of the health of human beings, but also the health of our plant and tree species that provide us the oxygen that we breathe, the food we eat, and the resources to live. The more we learn and define what a better normal should be, the more we are encouraged and committed to pursue a healthier and more sustainable life for all,” she said.

As an online discussion to promote health, environmental consciousness, and climate-adaptive practices, “Stories for a Better Normal” aims to change the mindset of individuals, families, and communities by demonstrating ways in which a “better normal” can be realized within our communities.

This online discussion is organized in partnership between the Office of Deputy Speaker Legarda and the Climate Change Commission, with support from the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, The Climate Reality Project-Philippines, and the Mother Earth Foundation. (Climate Change Office Information and Knowledge Management Division)