by Secretary Emmanuel Piñol
Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

Miarayon, Talakag, Bukdinon - In my previous visits to the vegetable growing region of IMTASULA in the uplands of Bukdinon, native Talaandig farmers pointed out to me a wild shrub which they said drives away mites and lice in chicken.

Farmer leader Ryan Danio, a Talaandig, identified the shrub as "Gentong" whose mint-scented leaves are placed in the nests of brooding hens to drive away mites and lice.

When I asked him whether farmers have tried using "Gentong" to drive away insects and worms from the vegetable fields, he said it has never been tried.

So for years now, most of the farmers have relied on chemical pesticides and insecticides to drive away insects and pests from their vegetable farms.

Uncontrolled and unsupervised, the excessive use of chemical pesticides and insecticides could result in very high residue levels which could endanger human health.

It was because of this that I challenged Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and inventor Auke Idzenga to help me formulate a natural insect repellant using available herbs.

Yesterday, when he arrived in Talakag, Bukidnon to inspect sites for the proposed Hydraulic Ram Pumps, Auke brought with him a sackful of the Java variety of Citronella, a grass similar to "Tanglad" used to produce mosquito repellants.

Along with the farmers, we planted the Citronella and also encouraged farmers to identify areas where the "Gentong" shrub grows.

Together with the farmers, Auke and I will lead an effort to concoct a herbal solution which we will experiment on the vegetables to check its effectiveness in driving away insects and pests.

We have identified other probable raw materials to include Cosmos flower, Neem tree leaves, Oregano, Basil and Lemon Grass.

Using Auke's distilling plant for Lemon Grass, we will extract natural oil and hydrosol from these materials which then would be sprayed on vegetables to check if the formula could drive away insects and pests.

This early, we cannot say if it will work effectively but there is no harm in trying and it is worth trying.

If proven effective, this could give more value to the vegetables produced by farmers as it will have less chemical residues.

Most of all, it will ensure safe and healthy vegetables for Filipinos.

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