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Dr. Romulo G. Davide – ‘No barren soils, only barren minds’.

On August 31, 2012, Asia’s Nobel Prize, the Ramon Magsaysay Award, was presented to six Asians during the Presentation Ceremonies on at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City. The only Filipino awardee was Dr. Romulo G. Davide, 78, who was cited by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, for “his steadfast passion in placing the power and discipline of science in the hands of Filipino farmers, who have consequently multiplied their yields, created productive farming communities, and rediscovered the dignity of their labor.”

As one of the country’s top scientists, Dr. Davide is known as the “Father of Plant Nematology.” His groundbreaking research on nematode pests, that destroy agricultural crops, enriched Philippine nematology and earned him international recognition and the distinction for being the first Filipino to be included in the ‘Who’s Who’ of nematology.

Born to a poor family in Argao, Cebu on March 14, 1934, Romulo has been passionate about helping farmers since he was young. His father, Hilario Davide Sr., taught Romulo the value of education . “There are no barren soils, only barren minds,” Hilario Sr. would tell Romulo, who accepted and repeated it along his life to his students and farmers.

Dr. Davide acquired a Bachelors Degree in Agriculture at the University of the Philippines, Los Baños in April 1957, an MD in Nematology from the Oklahoma State University (1962), and his Ph.D in Nematology and Plant Pathology from the North Carolina State University (1966).

He then became a Professor in the University of the Philippines, Los Baños (UPLB) where he led the nematology undergraduate and graduate courses. Dr. Davide’s researches on the cultural and biological control of nematodes have provided the Filipino farmers effective tools against nematodes, thereby increasing yield and income. He conducted a 16-year research on nematode survey, identification, host-parasite relationship and interaction with other plant pathogens. This resulted to the discovery of the fungus called Paecilomyces lilacinus, which feeds on parasitic nematodes, nematode eggs, and larvae on plants. The fungus was developed as BIOACT, the first Philippine biological control product that prevents root-rotting and gall-farming plant parasitic nematodes that attack various vegetable and fruit plantations such as potato, banana, citrus, pineapple, rice, etc.

He also investigated other nematodes including Tylenchulus semipenetrans, a major cause of citrus disease in the Philippines; Radopholus similis, which destroys cavendish banana plantations in Davao; and Meloidogyne incognita, which attacks tomatoes, bitter gourd, and eggplant.

His retirement in March 14, 1999 did not stop him from pursuing his dedication and commitment to his work and the university. He was elected member of the National Academy of Science and Technology Philippines in 2002; was a member of the Board of Regents, the highest policy-making body of the University of the Philippines from 2005-2009; and is now Professor Emeritus at UPLB.

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