BIOLOGICAL CONTROL OF OIL PALM INSECT PESTS IN INDONESIA
Hari Priwiratama*, Agus Eko Prasetyo & Agus Susanto
Indonesian Oil Palm Research Institute (IOPRI), Jalan Brigjen Katamso No. 51, Medan.
Tel: +62-61 7862477; Fax: +62-61 7862488; *Email: email@example.com
Since the mandatory implementation of ISPO, biological control has becoming the first
alternative for controlling insect pests in most of oil palm plantations in Indonesia. These
including the conservation of predators and parasitoids, the utilization of fungi, viruses,
bacteria, lures, and the plant-based insecticide. Conservation of predators and parasitoids
through ecological management has been a common practice in commercial as well as
smallholder plantation. Metarhizium anisopliae is among entomopathogenic fungal species
that has been widely used to suppress the population of major insect pest. Combination of M.
anisopliae and lure has been demonstrated to reduce the population of rhinoceros beetle. The
application of baculoviruses and Bacillus thuringiensis shows a great promise for controlling
nettle caterpillars. Continuous spraying of baculoviruses was demonstrated in an oil palm estate
where the population of Setothosea asigna was successfully maintained under the economic
threshold for two consecutive years. B. thuringiensis on the other hand was proven to be
effective against nettle caterpillars and bagworms. Next to natural enemies, the use of lures and
natural insecticides were also capable of decreasing rhinoceros beetle and bagworm population,
respectively. Formulation of natural enemies perhaps remain as a challenge for the
implementation of biological control in oil palm plantation.
Key words: M. anisopliae, B. bassiana, C. militaris, B. thuringiensis, baculovirus, pheromone,
fruit trap, bio-insecticide
Substantial economic losses due to pest infestations are becoming major threats to the oil palm
industry. For many years, insecticide applications have been a common practice for controlling
insect pests in oil palm plantations in Indonesia (Susanto et al. 2013). Unfortunately, heavy use
of insecticides has negative impacts to non-targeted pests, including insect predators,
parasitoids and pollinators (Wood 2002). In addition, uncontrolled use of insecticides may
trigger pest outbreaks either through resistance or resurgence mechanism (Gitau et al. 2009;
Norman et al. 2011; Rozziansha et al. 2012). The latter case, for instance, was observed in 2012
where outbreak of a new caterpillar, Pseudoresia desmierdechenoni, caused a massive damage
to oil palm in Batubara, North Sumatra (Prasetyo and Susanto 2014). On the other hand,
continuous reoccurrence of nettle caterpillars in several plantations in Indonesia indicates the
loss of effective beneficial insects that had been naturally maintaining the pest under the
The use of biological control as the first choice to manage insect pest population has becoming
more popular since the mandatory implementation of Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO)
regulation started in 2012. By this, plantations are urged to adopt the integrated pest
management (IPM) concepts, emphasizing biological control as the backbone for resolving
pest problems. This includes the utilization of natural enemies i.e. predators, parasitoids,
entomopathogenic fungi, nematodes, viruses, and bacteria. In addition, the use of ecofriendly
products such as insect pheromones, fruit trap, and plant-based insecticides are also included
as one of the approaches. This paper will further discuss the progress on the implementation of
biological control of insect pests in the Indonesian oil palm industry.
CONSERVATION OF PREDATORS AND PARASITOIDS FOR NATURAL
CONTROL OF LEAF-EATING CATERPILLARS
Oil palm in Indonesia is suffering from the attack of leaf-eating caterpillars i.e. bagworms,
nettle and moth caterpillar. Severe infestation of leaf-eating caterpillars may occur rapidly as
the life cycle are short and the reproduction rates are high. At high infestation level, leaf-eating
caterpillars are capable of causing massive defoliation to oil palm trees which may lead to more
than 40% yield losses at the first and second year after the defoliation (Wood et al. 1973; Basri
et al. 1995; Syed and Saleh 1998; Kamarudin and Wahid 2010; Potineni and Saravanan 2013).
Yield reduction in the first year is attributable to inflorescence abortion, whilst in the second
year is due to an effect on the sex ratio (Corley and Tinker 2016).
There are approximately 11 predators and 33 parasitoids identified as natural enemies of leaf-
eating caterpillars of oil palm in North Sumatra, Indonesia (Sipayung et al. 1988). However,
only a quarter of those were found attacking and have a significant impact to leaf-eating
caterpillars. Four major predators of leaf-eating caterpillars are Sycanus dichotomus,
Cosmolestes picticeps (Reduviidae), Eucanthecona furcellata (Pentatomidae), and Callimerus
arcufer (Cleridae) (Sipayung et al. 1988; Mariau et al. 1991; Norman and Basri 2007). The last
two species are the main predators of nettle and moth caterpillars. On the other hand, S.
dichotomus and C. picticeps are predator of bagworms as well as nettle and moth caterpillars.
Field observation has shown that the population of C. picticeps was found to be higher in the
area where Metisa plana outbreak occur, suggesting the role of C. picticeps as the major
predator of M. plana in oil palm plantation (Jamian et al. 2015). Method for mass rearing the
insect predators in green house was developed (Prawirosukarto et al. 1990; Dongoran et al.
2009), and has been conducted in a regular basis to maintain and increase predator population
in some plantations in Indonesia.
In addition to predator, insect parasitoids also play a significant role in keeping leaf-eating
caterpillar populations in check. Brachymeria lasus, Spinaria spinator, Fornicia ceylonica,
Apanteles aluella, A. metisae and Trichogrammatoidea thoseae are among parasitoids that
have high level of parasitism on leaf-eating caterpillars. Observation on parasitized larvae of
M. corbetti show that 60% young larvae were parasitized by Apanteles sp. and 20% larger
larvae were parasitized by Tachinids (Syed and Saleh 1998). In another observation, M. plana
population was reduced from 38 larvae/frond to less than 10 larvae/frond within 4 years in the
presence of B. lasus and C. arcufer (Mariau et al. 1991). In Malaysia, more than 30% declining
of M. plana population was reported in the presence of its parasitoids (Cheong et al. 2010).
Despite of their effectiveness, mass rearing of parasitoids for controlling insect pest outbreaks
in Indonesia has never been reported.
Vegetation composition seems to be one of factors influencing the abundance of predators and
parasitoids in oil palm plantation. The occurrence of predators and predation rates was higher
near the border area where other types of vegetation i.e. shrubs, weedy rubber, or secondary
forest are present (Nurdiansyah et al. 2016). The research also demonstrated that the predation
rates was decreased significantly with distance to the border area. This suggests the need for
vegetation diversification to support natural enemies inside oil palm plantation. One of
approaches to promote diversification is by maintaining weedy strips on the interrow of oil
palm. In another research, the population of beneficial insects was found to be higher in
plantations of which weedy strips and epiphytic weeds are abundant (Suzanti et al. 2016). A
more popular approach to promote predators and parasitoids population within oil palm
plantation is through the introduction of beneficial plants such as Antigonon leptopus, Cassia
cobanensis, C. tora, Euphorbia heterophylla, Tenera subulata or T. ulmifolia (Basri et al.
1999). Saleh and Siregar (2017) demonstrated that the number of predators and parasitoids was
higher in blocks with A. leptopus or T. subulata planted along the border. Hence, the population
of nettle caterpillar Setothosea assigna can be maintained under the economic threshold for
two consecutive years in these blocks. In contrast, S. asigna outbreaks was recorded three times
in blocks without any beneficial plants. Nowadays, planting beneficial plants has becoming a
common practice in most of oil palm plantations in Indonesia.
THE USE OF ENTOMOPATHOGENIC FUNGI FOR CONTROLLING INSECT
Metarhizium anisopliae, Beauveria bassiana and Cordyceps militaris are three major
etomopathogenic fungi that have been used to control insect pests in oil palm plantation in
Indonesia (Prawirosukarto et al. 1997; Susanto et al. 2005; Soetopo and Indrayani 2007;
Priwiratama and Susanto 2014). Among these, M. anisopliae is the most popular within oil
palm planters in Indonesia. Despite of having wide host range (Stolz 1999), M. anisopliae is
well known of it performance against the rhinoceros beetle, Oryctes rhinoceros (Bedford
2013). Natural infection of M. anisopliae on O. rhiconeros larvae was first reported in the
1960s (Wood 1968), and the first attempt to control the larvae was conducted in the 1970s
(Latch and Falloon 1976). Of many identified varieties, M. anisopliae var. major is the most
pathogenic against O. rhinoceros (Tulloch 1979). Since the finding, numerous researches had
been conducted in term of its biology and efficacy against the rhinoceros beetle (Susanto et al.
2005; Ramle et al. 2006; Priwiratama and Susanto 2014).
Mass propagation of M. anisopliae in Indonesia was initiated in 1980s using broken maize as
solid substrate for sporulation, and further efficacy test showed the potency of this fungus to
be commercially developed as a biological tool to control O. rhinoceros (Sitepu et al. 1988).
But not until the 2000s was large-scale application of M. anisopliae conducted to cut down the
beetle population in oil palm plantation in Indonesia (Susanto et al. 2006; Susanto et al. 2007a).
The first attempt was conducted in Teluk Dalam, Riau Province where abundant Oryctes larvae
live on empty fruit bunches (EFB) in big hole planting system (Susanto et al. 2006). Curative
measure using 100 g of M. anisopliae per hole was successfully reduced the larvae population
with up to 75% mortality at 7 weeks after application (WAA). The treatment was repeated in
different location and had caused more than 50% declining of Oryctes larvae population at 7
WAA. In the following year, two commercially-developed formulation of M. anisopliae,
powder and granule, were successfully applied at the dose of 20 g/m2 EFB in the District of
Asahan, North Sumatra, Indonesia (Susanto et al. 2007a). The powder formulation had a better
performance in the field with 15% higher larvae mortality than the granule. The first sign of
infection was detected at 10-14 days after application (DAA) with maximum mortality
observed at 6-7 weeks after application. In both sites recurring infection of M. anisopliae was
observed in the year after, suggesting that the fungus was able to survive in the field.
The application of M. anisopliae is often combined with another control measures to increase
the success rate particularly when organic matters are abundant in the field. In peatland
plantation, for example, O. rhinoceros is capable of living in the soil as it is composed of
organic debris. In this situation, standalone application of M. anisopliae becoming less efficient
as a large quantity of M. anisopliae will be needed to cover all area. Thus, a more targeted
approach is conducted in combination with organic trapping (Simanjuntak et al. 2011). The
trap, composed of M. anisopliae-mixed EFB and lure (aggregate pheromone), aims to attract
Oryctes beetle so that they are not laying their eggs in the soil. The developed larvae are not
able to grow further as they get infected by the fungus. Similar approach was adopted to control
Oryctes population in coconut plantation with a great success after six months of application
(Witjaksono et al. 2015).
In addition to O. rhinoceros, M. anisopliae also has a great potency against Coptotermes
curvignathus, a major termite species attacking oil palm trees (Rozziansha et al. 2013;
Khairunnisa et al. 2014; Yii et al. 2015). In a field test, spore of the fungus (108/ml) was applied
in combination with cardboard bait in termite baiting system (TBS) (Rozziansha et al. 2013).
The result showed a significant declining of termite attack within 45 DAA in treated block. A
multi-location field trials of this method is on progress.
Next to M. anisopliae, infection of B. bassiana has been reported on several oil palm insect
pests, including bagworm, nettle caterpillar, beetle, weevil and termite (Ramlah Ali et al. 1993;
Ramle et al. 1995; Dembilio et al. 2010; Tajuddin et al. 2010; Ginting et al. 2013; Susanto et
al. 2013). Despite pathogenicity tests had been conducted with great promises, trace-able
information on its application to control insect pest population in the field is lacking. In
Indonesia, natural infection of B. bassiana on oil palm insect pest had been reported since
1980s (Sipayung et al. 1988). However, progress on the development of the fungus as a bio-
control agent is slow, with only small number of researches on its efficacy in the field ever
since. Perhaps nice examples of small scale field efficacies in Indonesia were shown against
nettle caterpillar Darna trima and termite C. curvignathus (Ginting et al. 2013; Susanto et al.
2013). The application of B. bassiana in an effervescent formula was capable of causing 100%
mortality to D. trima in the nursery, suggesting a great potential of the formulation to be used
in large-scale trials (Susanto et al. 2013). A promising result was also shown in another study
where B. bassiana-mixed compost was applied as organic trapping for controlling C.
curvignathus attack in peatland plantation (Ginting et al. 2013).
In contrast to M. anisopliae and B. bassiana, C. militaris has narrow host range. The fungus is
highly pathogenic to nettle caterpillar and mostly found infecting the pupae (Evans 1987; de
Chenon et al. 1990). Effort to mass-produce the fungus for field use in oil palm plantation in
Indonesia was started in 1990s (Papierok et al. 1993; Wibowo et al. 1994). In 1996, a field
efficacy test of the fungus against Setothosea asigna was initiated using broken maize as solid
substrate (Pardede et al. 1996). In the study, mortality of S. asigna pupae was ranged between
40-80%, suggesting the potency of C. militaris to be used for controlling S. asigna.
Unfortunately, we cannot find any report on the large-scale application of C. militaris in oil
palm plantation in Indonesia. Perhaps due to hand picking pupae is much more effective to
directly reduce pupae population in the field (Susanto et al. 2012b).
DEVELOPMENT OF VIRUSES AS A BIO-CONTROL AGENT AGAINST
RHINOCEROS BEETLE AND NETTLE CATERPILLAR
The search of Oryctes virus was initiated in 1950s when the beetle destroyed coconut palms in
many regions, particularly in South Pacific, with no success (Huger 2005). In 1963, the first
sign of pathogen infection was detected on Oryctes larvae in an oil palm plantation in Malaysia
which further confirmed as virus infection (Huger 1966). The first introduction of the virus in
Samoa had led to a dramatic declining of Oryctes population in the entire island (Marschall
1970). The virus has since been introduced into many regions where damage to coconut and
oil palm were reported (Hammes 1978; Gorick 1980; Young and Longworth 1981; Zelazny
and Alfiler 1991), including Indonesia (Zelazny et al. 1992; de Chenon et al. 1998). However,
the virus has received a small attention in the past decades and limited research has been
conducted to exploit the potential use of the virus for Oryctes management in the Indonesian
oil palm plantations. A large-scale field test of Oryctes nudivirus (OrNV) was conducted in
2014 in the Distrik of Siak, Riau Province (Mohd Naim et al. 2016). Release of infected larvae
and beetle showed an adverse effect to Oryctes population in the treated blocks. The population
of the larvae and beetle was maintained at 3.3 larvae/m2 and 11.8 beetle/trap/day, respectively,
lower than the untreated blocks with 12.2 larvae/m2 and 17.5 beetle/trap/day. We believe that
there will be more researches exploiting the potency of OrNV in the near future in Indonesia.
In contrast to Oryctes virus, numerous studies had been conducted to promote baculovirus as a
biocontrol agent against nettle caterpillar since it was introduced in 1980s (Sipayung et al.
1989). The first field test was conducted in North Sumatra using crude sap of infected Setora
nitens larvae at the dose of 270 g/ha. The application of the virus was successfully reduced S.
nitens population on the early mature palm up to 76% at 12 DAA (Sipayung et al. 1989). The
author also mentioned a species-specific relationship that the virus from infected S. nitens
larvae was not infective against S. asigna. Thereafter, the search of natural infection of the
virus on S. asigna was conducted throughout Indonesia. Finally, in 1995, the first sign virus
infection was observed on S. asigna larvae. Further identification showed that the larvae was
infected by a baculovirus known as Multiple Nucleo Polyhedrosis Virus (MNPV) (Sudharto et
al. 1995). Initial application of 400 g crude sap of infected larvae per ha was capable of
reducing S. asigna population in mature palm with 98.3% mortality rate at 20 DAA.
Furthermore, frequent application of MNPV for 7 consecutive months in 1995 was able to
suppress and maintained the population of S. asigna in check for two years (Sudharto et al.
1997). The virus has since been introduced across oil palm plantations in Indonesia for
maintaining the population of S. nitens and S. asigna.
In the 20th century, application of MNPV has becoming a common practice for controlling
nettle caterpillar in large-commercial plantations. An intensive application of MNPV (250-500
ml/ha) in combination with Bacillus thuringiensis (750 g/ha) was conducted to rapidly decrease
S. asigna population from merely 8.8 to 1.9 larvae per frond in less than a month (Cahyasiwi
and Wood 2009). The population of S. asigna was successfully managed under the economic
threshold for two consecutive years by the continuous application of both agents. Field census
showed that recurring infection of MNPV was often observed in treated blocks, suggesting the
establishment of the virus in the field. In term of application frequency, only six rounds of
MNPV application were needed to maintain S. asigna population in check within two years
compared to 12 rounds when using insecticide.
In the past two decades, virus application was rarely conducted in old standing palms. This is
mainly due to a concern that fogging will reduce the performance of the virus. However, field
applications, although not well documented, had suggest that the virus can be applied with a
fogging tool particularly the double tank K-22 Bio. In a field test to control S. asigna in old
standing palm, the virus was applied using a fogging machine with lamda sihalotrin as the
comparison (Priwiratama and Susanto 2014). The result showed that application of MNPV was
capable of reducing S. asigna population by 90% at 14 DAA, a similar rate of larvae mortality
with the insecticide.
Despite the positive impacts, overall use of MNPV in Indonesia is still far beyond insecticides
perhaps due to lack of understanding in detecting, collecting and storing the infected larvae,
especially to plantation companies that has no RnD resources. Despite a simple method to mass
propagate the virus in laboratory has been introduced (Simanjuntak and Susanto 2011), a ready-
to-use formulation is urgently needed by the industry. Recently, a powder formulation of
MNPV was invented by using natural products (Simanjuntak et al. 2016). Initial efficacy in
green house showed a promising result with more than 80% mortality of S. asigna larvae at 3
DAA. The large-scale field testing is scheduled and the result will be reported in the near future.
THE ROLE OF Bacillus thuringiensis ON THE MANAGEMENT OF OIL PALM
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a road-shape, gram positive, spore-forming bacteria that has been
widely used as a biological control agent for controlling insect pests in commercial crops
(Morris et al. 1997), including oil palm (Basri et al. 1994). Bt is so popular that the commercial
products are available and can be easily found in the market. Over decades, Bt has been used
to control nettle caterpillar, bagworm and bunch moth in Indonesia (Sipayung and Sudharto
1985; Sipayung 1991; Ginting et al. 1995; Prasetyo et al. 2018).
In 1990s, screening of various indigenous Bt isolates against S. asigna was conducted. The
mortality of S. asigna larvae ranged from 3.3% to 43.3%, significantly lower compared to
commercial formulation Bt which ranged from 96.6% to 100% at similar time interval
(Pardede 1992). In another field test, commercial Bt spraying at the dose of 250 ml/ha was
capable of killing S. asigna larvae to more than 80% at 3 DAA which increased to more than
95% at 7 DAA (Rozziansha and Prasetyo 2017a). The study suggests the need of repeated
application to prevent recurrence attack of S. asigna. Frequent application of Bt is essential to
keep nettle caterpillar population under control. This was demonstrated in Bukit Sentang
Estate, North Sumatra when a large-scale continuous application of Bt against multiple attack
of D. trima and S. asigna was conducted (Pardede 1992). The treatment was successfully
reduced the total infested area from merely 163 ha to only 3 ha in less than a year. With a
consistent application, the population of D. trima and S. asigna in the Estate was maintained
under the economic threshold for 5 consecutive years (Pardede 1992; Pardede et al. 1996).
Utilization of Bt to overcome bagworm outbreaks has been reported in Malaysia and Indonesia
with a great success (Susanto 2010; Ramlah et al. 2013; Ahmad et al. 2017; Kamarudin et al.
2017). In Johor, Malaysia, consecutive aerial spraying of Bt was able to reduce the population
of M. plana up to 90.8% in 6 months (Kamarudin et al. 2017). Meanwhile in Indonesia, Bt
spraying had led to a significant declining of M. plana population at the District of Batubara,
North Sumatra (Susanto 2010). In another site, the mortality of M. plana was ranged from 94-
98% at 7 days after Bt spraying. In addition to M. plana, the bacterium was used to control
Mahasena corbetti on mature, tall oil palm tree. The Bt was delivered using single and double-
tank fogging machines to ensure coverage on the palm canopy. Surprisingly, more than 90%
mortality of M. corbetti was observed from both fogging equipment (Rozziansha and Prasetyo
2017b). This result indicated that Bt can be delivered to the oil palm canopy through fogging
application. The key of success on the fogging application are the homogenous solution of Bt-
fuel-water and the right time of application.
In the last five years we have observed an increasing attack of oil palm bunch moth Tirathaba
rufivena in Riau and Borneo, especially in plantations which dominated by peat and sandy soil.
Severe damage was commonly occurred in young mature palm between three to seven-year-
old. In respond to the attack, a long term Bt spraying against the bunch moth was applied in
the District of Indragiri Hulu, Riau (Prasetyo et al. 2018). Bt application was conducted on the
seven-year-old palms which heavily attacked by T. rufivena at the interval of two weeks for
nine successive months. The result showed that the larvae population was declined significantly
after four months of successive Bt spraying in spite of overlapping insect stages (Prasetyo et
al. 2018). In addition, the intensity of the bunch moth attack was eliminated completely after
five months of successive Bt spraying. The study also addressed the effect of long term
exposure of Bt to insect pollinator weevil Elaeidobius kamerunicus. The population of E.
kamerunicus was not affected by the continuous application of Bt, indicating the safe use of Bt
for beneficial insect. Previous study was also reported that Bt application has no negative effect
to the pollinator weevil (Najib et al. 2009).
Research to exploit nematode as bio-control agent of O. rhinoceros was started in the past
decade. A parasitic nematode, known as Steinernema carpocapsae, was isolated and found to
be highly pathogenic to Oryctes larvae (Novilih 2010b; Sari et al. 2011). Laboratory assessment
showed a promising result of which S. carpocapsae caused up to 100% infection of the third
instar larva (Novilih 2010a). In contrast, disappointing result was observed in the field test
following the bioassay. There was less than 1% of Oryctes larvae that got infected by the
nematode. The study suggested that the nematode application may be strongly affected by
environmental conditions. Ever since, there are plenty or researches that address the potency
of S. carpocapsae and Heterorhabditis sp. against Oryctes larvae in laboratory or green house
scale, but none has been proven to be effective in the field.
PHEROMONE TRAPPING AS AN ECOFRIENDLY APPROACH TO CONTROL
Pheromone trapping (pherotrap) has undeniably becoming an important tool in the integrated
pest management (IPM) for controlling insect pest, particularly O. rhinoceros, in oil palm
plantation. The discovery of ethyl-4-methyloctanoate (E4-MO) in the 1990s has greatly
affecting the strategy on the management of O. rhinoceros in Indonesia (de Chenon et al. 1997).
The compound is basically an aggregate pheromone produced by the male beetle of O.
rhinoceros (Hallett et al. 1995). Since 2006, the pheromone has been synthetically produced
by IOPRI and is available commercially in a slow-release dispenser that last up to three months
in the field (Utomo et al. 2006; Susanto et al. 2012c). This aggregate pheromone is far more
superior in attracting Oryctes beetle compared to the ethyl-chysanthemumate (Hallett et al.
Pherotrap is not only effective for mass trapping the beetle, but also as a tool for monitoring
the beetle population in the field (Chung 1997; Purba et al. 2001; Norman and Basri 2004;
Utomo et al. 2006; Tobing et al. 2007). Various types of pherotrap have been tested in the field
(de Chenon et al. 1997; de Chenon et al. 2001; Prasetyo et al. 2009; Rozziansha and Susanto
2012), from which the double vane and standing PVC being the two most effective pherotrap
types. The trap is best placed 3-4 meter above ground at the density of 1 trap per 2 ha area
(Susanto et al. 2012a).
The use of E4-MO pherotrap to control the outbreak of Oryctes was demonstrated in Sei Rokan
Estate, Riau. Pherotrap was applied successively at the interval of 3 months for 1-year period
(Susanto et al. 2007b). The result showed a significant declining of trapped beetles, from
merely 16 beetles/trap/month to only 1 beetle/trap/month (Figure 1), with a total of 146,289
beetles were trapped at the end of observation. The successive pherotrap applications was
stopped after the attack intensity reduced to less than 5%. The population of O. rhinoceros has
since been maintained under the economic threshold with regular pherotrap application in the
Figure 1. Average of Oryctes beetles trapped in Afdeling I – IV, Sei Rokan estate since
October 2005 until September 2006
Installation of pherotrap has now been a common practice to monitor and control O. rhinoceros
in commercial plantations as well as smallholders. The installation, in some cases, shall be
combined with other methods to improve the effectiveness in Oryctes management. In
peatland, for instance, an integrated approach by combining the use of pheromone, EFB, and
M. anisopliae to form an organic trapping (Figure 2) is essential to effectively reduce the
originating population as well as to prevent the occurrence of new generation of the beetle.
Field study has shown that the organic trapping attracts more beetle than the stand-alone
application of pherotrap or EFB trap (Simanjuntak et al. 2011). In addition, E4-MO trap may
also be combined with the OrNV to improve the catch-release of Oryctes beetle and so increase
the potency of virus transmission in the field.
12345678910 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
Beetle per trap
Observation (10 days interval)
III III IV Average
Figure 2. Organic trapping application in peatland plantation
In addition to E4-MO, a synthetic pheromone of the red palm weevil, Rhynchophorus
ferrugineus, has also been produced in Indonesia. The pheromone, 4-methyl-5-nonanol (4N-
5N), has been tested in combination with the E4-MO resulting in a synergistic effect of
Rhynchoporus trap (Susanto et al 2007a; Prasetyo et al, 2009). Field efficacy showed, as
predicted, a species-specific effect where each pheromone attracts its own species (Figure 3).
Meanwhile on the combined trap, containing pre-mixed solution of E4-MO and 4N-5N, the
number of trapped Rhynchophorus was increased significantly compared to its stand-alone
Figure 3. Beetles / weevils trapped within 10 weeks of double-pheromone installation at
Rengat region, Riau.
Oryctes Rhynchoporus Oryctes Rhynchoporus Oryctes Rhynchoporus
Oryctes pheromone Rhynchophorus pheromone Combination
Number of beetle/weevil trapped
Treatment | observation (1 week interval)
SUMMARY AND CHALLENGES
Conservation of biological control agents is the foundation of insect pest management in oil
palm plantation. Promoting native enemy population to control insect pests seems to be the
most effective way instead of introducing exotic biocontrol agents. This is best achieved
through ecological approaches. One of the efforts is by increasing landscape heterogeneity that
support additional food sources, nests, and protections for natural enemies, for instance, by
planting beneficial flowering plants and maintaining weedy strips in the planting block. Despite
biological control practices are increasing in some ways, it remains as a small component of
overall insect pest management in oil palm plantation in Indonesia.
We found out that limited use of bio-control products (fungi, virus, and bacteria) in many
plantations mainly not because of its performance against targeted insect pest but often due to
several technical issues. These are short storage period due to rapid decreasing of viability and
pathogenicity, high volume of product needed for large scale application, often not available
in large quantities, and inefficiency issue. Thus, providing such formulations of bio-control
product remains as a major challenge. Although a breakthrough in formulation was made by
the invention of an effervescent tablet containing entomopathogenic fungi and bacteria
(Priwiratama and Susanto 2014), the use of the product in oil palm plantation is lacking perhaps
due to lack of promotions. Nevertheless, researchers are paying attentions to the issues and
more cutting-edge formulations are expected to coming in the near future.
Last but not least, educating planters on the beneficial impacts of biological control in the
management of oil palm insect pest is often insufficient. Providing a more direct action such
as consultancies or field assistances may contributes to a greater impact for the sustainable
implementation of biological control in oil palm plantation and this is where the government
can play their role.
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