Monday, February 20, 2012

American Girl Is OMG Volunteer

A 20-year-old girl student from Brunswick, Maine, in the United States has volunteered her services to the "Oh My Gulay" (OMG) program in Aurora province, helping encourage school children to eat vegetables and at the same time learn to grow the same.
  
She is Emma James, a student at the Bowdain College in Brunswick, majoring in anthropology and education. She comes from a farming family that produces organic vegetables and beef cattle. She has been in Aurora since January 16 and is collaborating with Michelle Calica, the vegetable technician of East-West Seed Company, in putting up vegetable gardens in the school grounds of five elementary schools in the province.
Michelle Calica, her partner, is a graduate from UP Los Banos who has been assigned by East-West Seed Company to implement the OMG program in five schools in the towns of Baler, Maria Aurora and Dipaculao.
  
OMG is a program initiated by Sen. Edgardo Angara as an answer to the prevailing malnutrition among children in the country. By undertaking the growing of vegetables right in the premises of elementary and high schools, it is hoped the children will learn to love eating vegetables and at the same time will also become familiar with the basics of growing the same. The program is being implemented in many schools in the country in collaboration with East-West Seed Company which develops and distributes high-yielding varieties of vegetables and other high-value crops.
In the school garden, improved vegetables are grown the scientific way. The soil is thoroughly prepared, processed organi fertilizer is incorporated in the plots, plastic mulch is used and other improved techniques are employed. The school children are themselves involved in doing the gardening chores hands-on.
  
Among the vegetables that they have  been planting in the school gardens are tomatoes, eggplant, sitao, pepper, cucumber, ampalaya, okra, pechay, lettuce and more.
  
Sometime in March (2012) when most of the vegetables would be harvestable, a field day will be conducted at the Maria Aurora Elementary school garden. Teachers, parents and other residents in the other towns in the province will be invited to attend the occasion. This is to show to as many people as possible the results of growing vegetables the scientific way.
  
Usually on such occasions, there's a vegetable cooking competition where the teachers and parents as well as students may cook their favorite vegetable recipes and winners are declared. Token rewards are given to the participants. And there's a tasting of the cooked food.
  
Emma James, by the way, is an adventurous student. She a grant from the Sen. George Mitchell Institute so she could travel in Southeast Asia. Before coming to the Philippines, she stayed in Vietnam observing community development.
  
She happened to read about the Oh My Gulay project initiated by Sen. Edgardo Angara and thought it would be an interesting experience to participate in the promotion of vegetable growing in the schools. She contacted Sen. Angara who was only too eager to accommodate her wish. Now she stays in one of the houses of the senator in the capital town of Baler.
  
By the way, Emma has learned to love the vegetable dishes in the Philippines. One of her favorites is ampalaya which is something new to her. She also likes the edible fern collected from the wild that is made into salad or cooked with coconut milk together with other ingredients.
  
She will stay in the Philippines until June before she goes back to the US to finish her studies in anthropology and education. She has three more semesters to go. She hopes to return to the Philippines to do her own field study.
  
Back home, she says her parents take care of 100 beef cattle raised the organic way. They have 200 acres for growing hay for the animals. On four acres, they grow for sale organic potatoes, pumpkins, leafy greens, tomato, sweet corn and more.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Growing Fruit Trees in Containers

If you don't want to plant fruit trees in the ground because you are just renting the land or the house where you are staying, you can grow fruit trees in containers. That's what we have been doing in our farm in Teresa, Rizal. There are a number of advantages in this system. First, you can transfer the position of the trees in container whenever necessary. You can take them with you when you transfer residence. Or you can sell the same if somebody is interested in buying them. You can't do that if the tree is planted in the ground, especially if it is already big.
Trees in containers are easy to manage. For instance, if you want to stress the tree prior to flowering, it would be easy to do so. You can withhold watering.
  
This practice is ideal for use in a property that is temporarily unutilized. For instance, there is a private school owner in Bulacan who is using part of the school campus for growing her favorite fruit trees in containers. She said that it will take many years before new buildings could be constructed there.  
  
There are many varieties that you can grow in containers. These include pummelos, calamansi, lemons and other citrus species. Others include chico, makopa, sweet tamarind, mango, Abiu, balimbing, pomegranate, rambutan, and others.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Advice on Mama Sita Banana

The Mama Sita banana is becoming increasingly popular because it is sturdy, produces big bunches, and the fruits are very versatile. They can be eaten as fresh ripe fruit, can be fried, boiled, barbecued and mad into banana chip.
  
One practical advice: Allow just one plant to develop in one hill. The fruit bunch will be bigger. If there are suckers, separate them as soon as they are 1.5 feet tall and plant the same if you have space.  When the plant is nearing fruiting, allow one sucker to become a replacement. After the fruit of the main plant has been harvested, cut down the old trunk so the new sucker will grow faster.
  
Tissue-cultured planting materials are sometimes available. Such planting materials grow fast. In one year, they could bear fruit. Right now (Feb. 16) there are a limited number of tissue-cultured Mama Sita at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal.

Induce Branching of Young Fruit Trees

If you have young Abiu trees, say they are 4 feet tall and you want to induce them to produce many branches, all you have to do is to nip or cut the tip of the main stem. After that spray the plants with Ritz Harvest, a growth hormone. You will notice that in a short time, the plant will produce a lot of new branches. You can do the same with your mango, avocado and other fruit trees.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Rimas Can Be Marcotted

The common belief is that Rimas or Bread Fruit can only be propagated by cutting the root and then taking out the sprout that will emerge from the cut root. Pol Rubia, vice president for operations of AANI, swears that branches of Rimas can be marcotted. He has done that in his farm in San Isidro, Candelaria, Quezon.
  
The trick is simple enough. Select a branch with a diameter of about one inch. Remove the bark of a portion about 1.5 inches long. Wrap the debarked portion with moist sphagnum moss or coco coir dust one week after debarking. Don't wrap it right away. Pol says that roots start to emerge as early as two weeks from wrapping. Cut off the rooted marcot when the roots have turned brownish.

Bamboo Collection in Las Pinas

Las Pinas City has a collection of 37 endemic bamboo species planted along the Las Pinas-Bacoor riverbank. These bamboo species help hold the soil along the river, thus preventing erosion. At the same time the Kawayan Tinik is cut for the use of those making lanterns and other items needed in connection with the livelihood projects of the city government. Mrs. Cynthia Villar, former congresswoman, was responsible for the establishment of the bamboo collection.
  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Marang in Season

Marang is a very delicious fruit that is traditionally grown in Mindanao. It is now in season in Mindanao and ripe fruits are available in Davao City and many other places in the south.
  
The trouble is that Marang has poor shipping quality. Ripe fruits easily deteriorate so that those that are available in Manila, if there are, were usually harvested prematurely.
  
It has been shown that the Marang will also bear fruit in Luzon. In fact, one caller from UP Diliman contacted us one day telling us that they have a very fruitful tree that needed pruning. She was asking how to do that. We also know of a fellow in Brgy Aduas in Teresa, Rizal who used to have a number of fruiting Marang trees.
  
In other words, more people should plant this fruit tree in Luzon to meet the requirements in Manila.
  
Photo shows a Marang seller in a fruit market in Davao City.

Ralph Diaz & Black Pepper on Mahogany

RALPH DIAZ is a UP Los Banos agriculture graduate who worked for a long time with the United Nations. Now retired, his interest is hobby farming. He has a penthouse in his building in Quezon City where he grows beautiful lettuce and other greens. He has also bought a farm in Bataan where he will plant fruit trees. He has already bought a lot of Vietnam pummelo cultivars for planting any time from now.
  
Here is posing here with Paniyur, an Indian black pepper cultivar which grows very well in the Philippines. The black pepper is made to climb a mahogany tree. This vaiety produces long fruit spikes that are very pungent. Planting materials are available at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal.

Watch For Coming Events

There are important coming events that you  would like to know. Like the Philfoodex, for instance. This is the 11th Philippine Food Expo to be staged on February 23-26 at the World Trade Center on Diosdado Macapagal Blvd. corner Sen. Puyat Avenue, Pasay City.
  
The trade fair aims to showcase the best local food products to both local and foreign attendees. The event’s theme is “From Farm to Fork, the Best Food Products to the World.”
  
To help buyers identify the sectors they want to cover, the four-day event will feature retail and exporters’ zones. Roberto Amores, Philfoodex president, said that the event will be a most ideal venue for sourcing and business matching for both local and foreign food industry players. He added that there are many exportable high quality products that are still unknown to the world market.
  
This year’s new features, according to Amores, include cottage industries pavilion and industry clusters showcasing the coffee, chocolate, mango, coconut, organic, condiments, snacks and beverage sectors.
  
Amores added that the Philippine Food Expo will highlight the importance of the various sectors involved in the manufacturing and development of export-quality food products – from ingredients, high technology processes, food safety standards and manufacturing practices to creative packaging and marketing strategies.
  
He said that previous editions of the food expo had over 300 exhibitors with sales of US2.6 million from more than 50 foreign buyers from Europe, the United States and Asia. There were more than 27,000 local trade buyers and visitors.
  
The trade expo will also feature lectures on food processing, cooking demonstrations, business matching opportunities and various special events.
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FLORA FILIPINA EXPO 2012 – A major horticultural event, the Flora Filipina Expo 2012, will be held from February 23 to March 12 at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City. One highlight is the Scientific Conference that will be held on Feb. 24-25 at the Bureau of Soils and Water Management on Visayas Avenue corner Elliptical Road, Diliman, Quezon City.
  
Fee for students is P1,600 while P2,000 is for non-students. The scientific conference will feature foreign and Filipino resource persons. There will be foreign speakers from Indonesia, Thailand, India and Singapore.
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FIRST NATIONAL COCO SUGAR CONGRESS – The First National Coconut Sap Sugar Industry Congress (NCSSIC) will be held on March 5 to 6 at the Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City.
  
The Congress aims to craft a master plan aimed at developing what is popularly called the coco sugar industry to seize more opportunities in a $1.5 billion alternative sweetener global market.
  
“With the increasing demand, the coconut sap sugar industry presents a promising business opportunity for the farmers and small to medium enterprises,” according to NCSSIC Chairman Erlene C. Manohar who is also project development officer of the Philippine Coconut Authority.
  
The Congress is under the auspices of the Bureau of Agricultural Research and the Philippine Coconut Authority.
  
Director Nicomedes Eleazar of BAR believes that “our farmers and entrepreneurs can create a niche in natural products whose primary value is their health quality. Coconut sap sugar is one of those products that has already taken off in the market and which still offers so much valuable growth potential.”
  
There are only three countries competing in the coconut sap sugar supply in the world market, namely Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. The Philippines has competitive advantage over Thailand in terms of volume and against Indonesia in terms of quality.
    
The Philippines broke into the coconut sap sugar market in the United States in March 2007 after proving that the coconut sap sugar has a low glycemic index (GI) at 35. Any sugar-based product is considered low when its GI is 54 and below. This is much lower than the 65 to 100 GI for sugarcane-based sugars.
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AGRI-KAPIHAN SKED – The Agri-Kapihan is now held every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 noon at the AANI Weekend Market premises at the St. Vincent Seminary on Tandang Sora, Quezon City.
  
The topic on February 18 is on Biogas which will be tackled by Pio Rodriguez who has a working portable model for residential use.
  
On February 25, the topic will be on swine production which will be tackled by Vic Alburo.
  
The Agri-Kapihan is a forum that is open free to farming enthusiasts. It was organized in 1986 by the editor of this page, and has been ongoing since then.
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KSA RADIO PROGRAM – Tune in to the radio program “Kaunlaran sa Agrikultura” (KSA) which is aired every Sunday from 4:30 to 7:30 in the morning on radio station DWWW, 774 khz on the AM band. It is co-anchored by Tony S. Rola, Nina Manzanares-Agu and Zac B. Sarian.
  
We have a segment on ornamental horticulture and success stories. Other segments include farm mechanization, fruit trees, fertilizers and pesticides, marketing ideas, research results, schedule of events and many others.

Remarkable Flowering Plant

This floriferous shrub was spotted at the commercial section of the recent Horticulture 2012, the annual garden show of the Philippine Horticultural Society held at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City.


It is a variegated version of the Clerodendrum quadriloculare, a native of the Philippines. It is quite rare because of its variegated leaves. The common one is the all-green cultivar.


An enterprising member of PHS paid P7,000 for this particular plant. He intends to grow it even more floriferous for the next Horti show. It could win the Best-in-Show award hands down.

Known-You's Sweetest Melon

This is how the fruit of Known You's sweetest new melon hybrid looks like. Called Red Aroma, the fruit is deep globe-shaped, and it rind is gray-green with stable nets. Fruit weighs around two kilos. The thick dark orange flesh with soft texture has a good aroma and a high Brix of 15 to 18 degrees. It can be harvested around 75 to 90 days after sowing and is good for shipping and storage. It is claimed to be resistant to Fusarium wilt.


This variety is one of 500 high-value crop varieties that are now being field tested at the Known-You Philippines (KYP) demo farm in Carmen, Rosales, Pangasinan KYP is a new joint venture company of Known-You of Taiwan and Harbest Agribusiness of Toto Barcelona of the Philippines.

Philippine Participation in HortiAsia 2012

iThe Department of Agriculture has booked for 20 booths at the Horticultural Expo Asia which will be held in Bangkok on May 9-11 at the Bangkok International Trade Exhibition Center.


The Philippine players in the horticultural industry (flowers, ornamental plants, fruits and vegetables) will showcase their products in the said booths. The DA has appropriated about P760,000 as subsidy for this participation of Philippine companies in HortiAsia 2012. 


The DA's support is a move to promote export of Philippine products. This year, the DA has scheduled participation of various Philippine groups to participate in about 20 trade fairs abroad. This was announced by DA Undersecretary Salvador Salacup during the kickoff press conference of HortiAsia held last Feb. 10 at the Sulo Riviera Hotel in Quezon City. The press conference was organized by the organizers of the event. Zac B. Sarian was the moderator in the presscon.

Teresa Orchard & Nursery Is Easy to Locate

The Teresa Orchard & Nursery which specializes in exotic fruit trees is very easy to locate. It is found along the national road in Teresa, Rizal, about 30 meters on the right side before the Teresa-Morong boundary. Teresa is the town next to Antipolo City. There is a big arch at the boundary.
  
If you are coming from Manila with your own ride, take Ortigas Avenue Extension and drive all through Antipolo City down to Teresa. You will pass through a zigzag road before reaching the town of Teresa. If you take a jeep or bus, make sure that the vehicle you take passes through Antipolo City proper and not through the town of Angono.
  
Teresa Orchard & Nursery offers superior varieties of fruit trees, both local and imported. These include Abiu from Brazil, variegated orange, imported makopa varieties, selected carabao mangoes, imported mango varieties from Taiwan (Golden Queen), Australia (Peach Mango or R2E2), Thailand (Many Babies, Eating Green, Chokanan); Longkong lanzones from Thailand, Duku lanzones, pummelos from Thailand, Vietnam, Florida (USA) and of course from the Philippines (Magallanes). We also have seedlings of latexless jackfruit and pomegranate from India and Israel.
  
For further information, call or text us at 0917-841-5477 or Rose Banzuela at 0915-434-4216.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Read Our Columns & Articles

You can read our columns and articles on agriculture in several publications of the Manila Bulletin Publishing Corporation.
  
The Agriculture Page which we edit comes out in the daily newspaper twice a week - every Thursday and Saturday. Our column is titled "Agri Plain Talk."
  
Our column titled "Agri Talk" comes out in Panorama Magazine, the Sunday supplement of the Manila Bulletin.
  
We also edit the monthly Agriculture Magazine which is the most widely circulated magazine of its kind in the Philippines.
  
Then we have our columns and articles in the vernacular magazines. These are the Bannawag Magazine (Ilocano), Liwayway (Tagalog or Pilipino), Bisaya Magazine and Hiligaynon Magazine.
  
These keep us busy every day, which we enjoy doing. We often travel to the provinces and sometimes abroad to gather materials for our writings. We are particularly interested to meet people with interesting ideas and winning strategies in farming. 

Tune in to Kaunlaran Sa Agrikultura

Tune in to our radio program "Kaunlaran Sa Agrikultura" (Progress in Agriculture) which is aired on radio station DWWW,  774 khz on the AM band, from 4:30 to 7:30 a.m. on Sundays. It is co-anchored by Tony S. Rola, Nina Manzanares-Agu and Zac B. Sarian. We discuss practical farming ideas, ornamental horticulture, fruit trees, livestock and poultry, organic farming, money-making ideas, research results, farm mechanization, biogas, fertilizers and pest control, vegetables, fisheries, interesting agri-people and many more.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mini Cucumber Eaten Like an Apple

These are fruits of my Pipinito cucumber which I harvested this morning from my vegetable garden. They are grown without any chemical sprays. These are very nice to eat fresh, eating them just like you would eat an apple.
  
In fact, my friend Ric Reyes of East-West Seed Company says that in Thailand, this same variety is the favorite of office workers to bring with them to the office for snacks. That's right, they eat the crisp fruits like munching an apple.
  
This is a very early maturing variety. In just 30 days from planting, we harvested the first fruits. We brought some to the office, and surely our officemates love the fruit.
  
Why not grow some in your garden, too?

Buko Husk for Fiber & Coir Dust

MRS. CYNTHIA VILLAR is shown here with a pile of
buko husks that's usually thrown away by sellers of
young coconuts. The Villar Foundation gathers these
waste materials and extract from the fiber and coir dust
by using a decorticating machine. The fibers are made into twines
for making coco net for erosion control. The coir dust, on
the other hand is an excellent material for making organic
fertilizer when mixed with household and market wastes.

Coco Net from Coconut Husk

There’s really money and job opportunity in those green coconut husks with shell usually thrown away by vendors of “buko” who are found in many places in Metro Manila.

The proof is exemplified by the project of Mrs. Cynthia Villar, a former congresswoman of Las Pinas City. Although she has finished her term in Congress, she continues to maintain projects that are deemed to enhance the environment as well as create job opportunities for the city’s residents, especially the poor.

The coco net production project extracts fiber and coco peat or coir dust from the green husks and shell of the “buko” or young coconut. The fiber is used for making coco net which is a versatile material for controlling erosion in sloping areas. On the other hand, the coco dust is used as raw material for mixing with household and market wastes to make organic fertilizer.

A decorticating machine is used to extract the fiber and dust from the green husks. The machine can extract fiber and dust from 8,000 coconut husk halves in one day. The fibers are then made into twines by women workers who usually work part time because they have to also do household work, cooking and taking care of their children.

There are 26 twining machines that are usually manned by a mother and her child. For every twine, eight meters long that they make, they are paid P1.50. On a part-time basis, mother and child can make 200 twines a day for which they receive P300.

One group of workers sort the fibers so that they are readied for twining. Most of the workers are also part-timers because they have also to do their household chores. They are happy because they can make some money without neglecting their duties at home.

Another set of workers do the weaving. Usually, two people operate one loom, also on a part-time basis. In two hours they can weave one roll measuring one meter by 50 meters. For this they are paid P200.

The big buyer of coco net is the Department of Public Works and Highways. They use this to control erosion in sloping areas along the roads and river banks. The coco net is installed in sloping areas together with seeds of grasses or shrubs. By the time the coco net has degraded after three years, according to Mrs. Villar, the grasses or shrubs will have been well established to prevent erosion.

The coco net sells for P2,000 per roll. Mrs. Villar said that about half of the price of one roll is used for paying the laborers from the gathering of the husks, decorticating to twining and weaving operations. The other half is used for maintenance of the equipment and for expansion of the project.

The buko waste materials are obtained not only from Las Pinas but also from Alabang, Paranaque and Bacoor, Cavite. The vendors are thankful for their waste products being hauled by the project of Mrs. Villar.

Mrs. Villar is also thankful for the fact that the roofed structure was available for the coco net project. She said that it was a white elephant built by the city administration several years ago. It was originally intended as a market to be used by street vendors. The vendors did not like selling their wares there so the place was abandoned. Now, it is a perfect place for the coco net project of the Villar Foundation.

The coco coir dust or peat, on the other hand, is a perfect raw material for mixing with the household and market wastes in making organic fertilizer. This is another project initiated by Mrs. Villar to inculcate the value of segregating biodegradable and non-biodegradable household and market wastes. In the process, the communities become environmentally clean and at the same time it produces an important byproduct – organic fertilizer not only for use of Las Pinas residents but also farmers who are into natural farming outside of the city.

NATURAL FARMING IN DAVAO DEL NORTE – The natural farming idea is catching fire in many parts of the country. In Davao del Norte, Dr. Francisco de la Pena, Jr. has pioneered in putting up his Natural Farming Institute. He is an educator as well as a fisheries expert. He owns two colleges in Davao del Norte and is also active in mariculture, culturing bangus in cages and feeding them with his own formulation of organic feeds.

His institute is active in training farmers, local government units (LGUs) and businessmen in natural farming. His institute has a showcase of naturally farmed chickens, pigs, vegetables and banana.

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ASEAN COFFEE MEET- Chit Juan of the Philippine Coffee Board announces that the ASEAN Coffee Federation will hold its 5th Meeting in Manila on February 17-18. The meeting will be attended by delegates from various coffee-producing and coffee-buying countries in Southeast Asia.

Expected to attend are officials of the Thailand Barista Association, the officers of the Singapore Coffee Association, the president of the Specialty Coffee Association in Indonesia, directors of the Lao Coffee and Lao Chamber of Commerce of Laos and a few others who in one way or the other are in the coffee trade within the ASEAN countries.

Hosting the event is the PCBI, the country’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to coffee. Sponsors include Culinary Exchange, Phil Barista Coffee Academy, Kick Start Coffee, Courmets Coffee and Mt. Apo Civet Coffee.

Reducing the Cost of Fish Feed

JUST like the livestock and poultry raisers, the big problem of the bangus growers these days is the high cost of feeds. This is particularly true for the bangus growers in the mariculture park in Panabo City, Davao del Norte.

Bangus stocks in the mariculture park have to be fed with commercial feed because they are confined in cages where there are no natural feeds. The bangus fingerlings grow fast in the marine cages, no question about that. But there are serious problems, especially for the fish farmers who have to borrow money for paying for the cages, the feeds, nets and of course the fingerlings.

Dr. Francisco de la Pena, who used to have several cages has stocked only two cages in the current season because it has been a losing proposition to continue with the many cages. The trouble, he said, is that the price of bangus has not increased while the cost of commercial feed has skyrocketed.

He explained that in 2008, the 25-kilo bag of feeds used to cost only about P550. Today, the same volume is selling at P700 to P800. While the price of angus has not increased at all, the cost of commercial feeds has gone up tremendously.

When he started in 2008, bangus raising was very profitable. From six cages that he stocked with 15,000 fingerlings per cage, he was able to realize a net profit of P1.4 million. The profit was made in a culture period of four months.

It takes a lot of capital to make bangus farming in cages. From the start to finish, one has to spend about P500,000 per cage, including the cost of the cage, fingerlings at P6.50 per five-inch fingerling. Feeds constitute 60 to 70 percent of the cost of production. So when the cost of feed increases, the cost of production also increases significantly.

One big problem of the bangus raisers in Panabo is postharvest handling. There is lack of refrigeration facilities. There is no ice plant in the area. One other observation of Dr. de la Pena is that the cage module of 10 x 10 meters by 4 meters deep is too big for some of the farmers. Why? Because the harvest is often too much for the owner to handle. If there are not enough buyers, he could be forced to sell at a low price.

He suggests that some of the cages should measure only 5 meters x 5 meters and 4 meters deep. That way, there will be less harvest to handle and to market at a given time.

Dr. de la Pena has been experimenting on his own formulation of organic feeds for his bangus. He is now very positive that with his own feed formulation, he could reduce the cost of feeds by by 20 percent. And that is why he will be increasing the number of fish cages that he will stock with fingerlings soon.

His organic fish feed consists of rice bran, corn bran, copra meal, fish amino acid, fermented plant juices and growth hormones, and OHN or oriental herbal nutrients. The ingredients are mixed thoroughly and then pelletized with the use of a binder which could be corn starch or 3rd class all-purpose wheat flour.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fertilizer From Household Wastes

Household waste disposal can be money-making, money-saving and job creating. Just like what they are doing in Las Pinas City.
We were invited on Feb. 7, 2012 to see the different waste disposal and livelihood programs being undertaken in Las Pinas City largely through the initiative of former Congresswoman Cynthia A. Villar through the Villar Foundation.

One of her pet projects is converting the kitchen and market wastes into organic fertilizer. In Brgy. Pamplona II, we visited the biggest composting facility in the city administered by Roberto Villalon, a former chairman of the barangay.
He showed us six big rotary steel composters, each of which can convert the raw materials into organic fertilizer in 7 days. Each composter can produce 700 to 1,000 kilos of organic fertilizer a month.

Actually, the composting facility in Pamplona II is just one of the 29 composting facilities now operating in 20 barangays of Las Pinas. There is at least one composter in one barangay.

Mrs. Villar said that they sell the compost at only P3 per kilo or P120 for a 40-kilo bag. This is much cheaper than the other organic fertilizers usually sold in the market.

Among the buyers are a group of farmers from Nueva Ecija who use the organic fertilizer in producing organic vegetables, fruits and other crops like rice.

Mrs. Villar explained that the establishment of composting facilities in the different barangays is one way of maintaining a clean environment Aside from the fact that te city government saves a lot of money from hauling the garbage in the community to the dumpsite in San Pedro, Laguna.

She said the composting facilities help reduce the garbage that has to be disposed to the dumpsite which is very costly. She said that the government spends about P11,000 per truck of garbage delivered to the dumpsite. Six thousand pesos is paid per trip of the truck that hauls the garbage. Then there is the tipping fee of P5,000 to be paid to the owner of the private dumpsite.

The composting projet is also providing livelihood to the residents in the different villages. There are part time workers who collect the garbage from each house six days of the week. They load the kitchen wastes and other garbage in large buckets that are tightly sealed. And the 70 garbage collectors load them in their pedal-powered tricycles.
The raw garbage passes through a presser so that the excess moisture is removed. Then these are mixed with other ingredients such as coco peat or coir dust which makes the resulting compost very friable and excellent for enriching the soil for planting various crops.

By the way, the coco coir dust that is incorporated in the organic fertilizer is a byproduct of another livelihood-generating project of Mrs. Villar. This is the production of what they call coco net which is used in erosion control.

In the coco net project the workers gather the buko husks thrown away by those selling young coconut or "buko" in many parts of Metro Manila. The coconut husks are decorticated and the fiber collected for making coco net.

In retrospect, Mrs. Villar said it was not easy to convince the residents to segregate their household wastes into biodegradable and non-biodegradable. About 75 percent of the residents didn't want to adopt the segregation system because that was something new to them. They thought that was impractical and it only added more work to the people in the households.

Mrs. Villar, however, persisted. She asked the religious people to help her convince the homemakers and family men to do garbage segregation in their homes.

Today, however, after the residents have seen the benefits of segregating the biodegradable from the non-biodegradable wastes, they have become advocates of the practice.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The KNOWN-YOU Seed Company

 
Photo shows the venerable Wun-Yu Chen who started a small seed business in the late 1960s that grew and grew to become the biggest seed company in Taiwan - the Known-You Seed Co. based in Kaohsiung.
Last December 19, Known-You observed its 43rd anniversary with the inauguration of its new headquarters that was built with NT$300 million. Mr. Chen spearheaded the breeding of hybrid watermelon and other high-value vegetables in Taiwan. These hybrid seeds have benefited millions of farmers not only in Taiwan but also around the world, including the United States, Japan, Europe and of course other Asian countries like the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka and others. Mr. Chen is shown here in this photo with his favorite crop during a previous watermelon festival in Taiwan. At 86 years old, he still goes to his office although much of the administrative tasks are now in the hands of his son Lung-Mu Chen, Known-You president.

Also during the inauguration a couple of hybrids in display caught my attention, among them is the POMELON a combination of Pomelo & Melon.


At first glance, the whole fruit looks like a pomelo of the Vietnam variety. But it is not a pomelo. It is an unusual new melon hybrid developed by Known-You Seed of Taiwan. 

This has a lemony taste, a combination of the slight sourness of pomelo and the sweetness of melon. The flesh is soft and very juicy. It is very refreshing to the taste.
 
Known-You says this variety is easy to cultivate, has long shelf life, good fruit setting and is resistant to Fusarium wilt disease. Fruit is oblate shaped, weighs about 1.8 kilos. Its yellowish green skin is smooth with occasional nets. 
 
It has a Brix reading of 13 to 15 degrees which is considered sweet on the high side. It keeps very well. After one month of storage, the special flavor is still there. It can be harvested 75 to 90 days after sowing. 


THIS is Jade Lady, the Honeydew melon that is highly adapted to the tropical climate of the Philippines. It is early maturing. It is ready for harvest in just 38 to 45 days after flowering.
 
Fruits which weigh 1.5 to 2.5 kilos are sweet with a high sugar content of 15-18 percent. This variety has stable quality even in hot season when there is minimal temperature difference between day and night.


THESE are two white eggplant accessions in the germplasm collection of Known-You Seed Company in Taiwan. The white eggplant is said to have very good shelf life and transport quality.
 
The upper photo shows bigger round fruits while the one below shows much smaller fruits. There are other sizes. One has long fruits while another white has fruits that are as small as cherry tomatoes.

These are being used by breeders of the company to create new outstanding hybrids.

The black hot pepper! This is one of the various sweet and hot peppers that are under trial at the research farm of Known-You Seed in Tainan, Taiwan.
 
This black pepper is said to be one of the hottest in the collection of Taiwan's biggest seed company-Known-You. The company is also well known for breeding many outstanding vegetables and other high-value crops like tomatoes, eggplant, cucumber, watermelon, melon, okra, squash, ampalaya, sweet corn and more.

In the Philippines, seeds are distributed by Harbest Agribusiness

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Taiwan Cherry Tomato Farmer


This is Huang Guo Tsun, 42, a cherry tomato farmer in Neimen district in Kaohsiung City. Last Sept. 10, he planted 1,760 cherry tomato seedlings on a 2,500-square meter property which he rented for NT$10,000 a month. Starting 90 days after planting, he has been harvesting his ripe fruits every day. Five pickers harvest anywhere between 60 to 180 kilos daily.
 
That's big money. Sixty kilos at present sell for NT$7,000 which is about P11,000 in Philippine money. If they harvest 180 kilos, that's the equivalent of P33,000. That's for one day!
Of course, labor in Taiwan is expensive. The pickers are paid NT$800 a day or P1,257 in Philippine money. Still, the margin is substantial. Huang could harvest for at least 60 days. If the crop season is good, harvesting could last for as long as six months, according to him.
Huang plants the Nova and Amber varieties which are about the sweetest of the Known-You hybrids. Huang has been planting cherry tomatoes for the last eight years now. Before that, he planted cucumber, morning glory(kangkong) and other leafy vegetables. He says cherry tomatoes are the most profitable as far as he is concerned.
 
What's good is that technicians of Known-You are very helpful in making him succeed. He has been taught how to maintain the sweetness of his cherry tomatoes. When he feels that the fruits are not sweet enough, he applies more phosphorus and potassium. He also withholds irrigation for a few days to make the fruits sweeter.

Pointed Sweet Pepper


THERE'S a pointed sweet pepper that they are growing in greenhouses at the Arava desert in southern Israel. This is a tall variety that produces a lot of fruits, five of them usually weighing a kilo.
According to Ronnen Schlachet who is managing a 29-hectare sweet pepper farm, 30,000 plants are grown per hectare. Each plant yields 3 kilos so that one hectare yields abut 90 tons.

The greenhouse costs 400,000 Euros to build per hectare but it could last for many years. After each cropping, the greenhouse is dismantled and the soil is cultivated with tractor. After plowing and harrowing, the soil is covered with plastic for 45 days. That's the new way of sterilizing the soil. It's called solarization which does not use any chemical. The heat of the sun kills the harmful microbes.
Photo shows Supanee Na Songkhla, a Thai journalist, posing with fruitful pointed sweet pepper in the farm of Mr. Schlachet.
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