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Buri May Save Ifugao Rice Terraces From Worms E-mail
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Sunday, 25 February 2007

Buri May Save Ifugao Rice Terraces From Worms


By Delmar Cariño


BAGUIO CITY—The buri palm that grows abundantly in warm areas and in coastal plains may yet save Ifugao’s rice terraces from the giant earthworms that plague it.

A recent study conducted by the ecosystems research and development sector (ERDS) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the Cordillera found that buri fruit extracts were effective organic vermicides (substances that kill worms).

Aside from increasing vegetation, giant earthworms, known locally as “kolang,” threaten to destroy the rice terraces, as they tunnel through the soil and riprap dikes. The holes they create cause soil erosion and allow water to leak from the rice paddies.

Ifugao farmers said the tunneling has also contributed to the decrease in soil fertility and low yield of the terraces.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) has listed the Ifugao terraces as one of the world’s endangered heritage sites.

“The research is considered a breakthrough since the farmers and the DENR had been searching for effective measures against the earthworms,” Samuel Peñafiel, DENR Cordillera director, said.

The ERDS research team conducted the study from October to December last year and found that buri fruit extracts were able to kill giant earthworms.

The team conducted laboratory and field trials that involved 22 kilograms of buri fruits which were divided in groups and soaked in water in varying time periods before extraction. The extracts were strained and prepared in different dosages or concentrations.

The team, composed of Evangeline Martinez, Marylou Andrada, Imelda Ngaloy and George Tomin, found that in both trials, earthworm mortality was high.

It observed that the higher the dosage of buri fruit extracts, the more immediate the effect on the earthworms.

Earthworms immersed in extracts with higher concentrations died faster while those treated in lower dosages took a longer time to die, the team said.

The extracts showed that they are more potent when the fruits were fermented or soaked for at least two days or more before extraction.

The researchers said the earthworms wriggled fast when immersed in the extract, indicating paralysis and death.

The natural sciences research unit of Saint Louis University here conducted a phytochemical analysis of the buri extracts and found that they had high levels of tannin and steroids that are acidic, bitter and have an unpleasant taste.

The analysis showed that the green soapy substances that came out during the extraction contained compounds with antiviral and antifungal properties.

Martinez, the study team leader, said Moises Butic, the DENR’s community environment and natural resources officer (Cenro) in Ifugao, first raised the idea of studying the potentials of the buri palm against earthworms.

She said Butic and Dr. Lydia Tibus, a veterinarian, observed that earthworms came out of the ground where buri fruits were thrown near the Cenro Compound.

The observation led students of the Ifugao Science High School in Lamut town to conduct their own experiment. They found that the buri extract killed the earthworms in less than three minutes.

Butic relayed the results to Peñafiel and Egidio Costales, the DENR regional technical director for research, who asked the ERDS to conduct a full study.
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