Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tissue Culture - Boon And Bane

Tissue culture is a science-based technique of propagating certain plants fast, very fast. That's a technique used in multiplying orchids, banana and many other crops. This is the technique used in multiplying disease-free banana planting materials just like the ones grown by the big as well as small scale Cavendish banana plantations in Mindanao.
The technique of using tissue-cultured planting materials was also used to rehabilitate the Lakatan banana plantings in Cagayan Valley and other parts of Northern Luzon which were ravaged by the Banana Bunchy Top Virus. The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) teamed up with Bioversity International to come up with a protocol of procuring the tissue-cultured Lakatan from a big tissue-culture laboratory in Davao City.
The tissue-cultured plantlets were air-shipped to Manila which were eventually brought to the province where they had to be hardened in a nursery up to the time they were ready for planting in the field. That's a cheap way of bringing the planting materials to the area where they were to be planted. The project has been successful in reviving the Lakatan banana industry in Northern Luzon, once again making available to local consumers good quality Lakatan bananas.

TISSUE CULTURE COULD BE A BANE - While tissue-culture offers tremendous benefits, it could be a bane if undertaken improperly. It could be the fastest means of spreading disease in banana as well as in other crops. How? Well, if the source of the material to be tissue-cultured is disease-infected, the resulting tissue-cultured plantlets will carry the disease. Since tissue culture could produce thousands if not millions of plantlets tremendously fast, the disease could spread super fast.
 So what is the solution? Dr. Agustin Molina, top man of Bioversity International in this region of Asia-Pacific and Oceania, says that it is very important that the source of tissue-cultured material should be extremely clean. And that is the reason why the material to be tissue-cultured should be tested for any disease infection. Any infected material should be discarded.

Sweet Guyabano in Teresa

Sweet Guyabano seedlings are now available at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal. With proper care, the trees will bear fruit in two to three years.
Also available are grafted Seedless Duhat and Seedless Atis. The fruits of the Seedless Duhat come in big clusters of small fruits.
Teresa Orchard & Nursery is very accessible. It is along the road, Km 36.6, about 30 meters before the Teresa-Morong boundary, Rizal. Teresa is the town next to Antipolo City. Text 0917-841-5477 for more info.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Banana Outscaling Project in Mindanao

Dr. Agustin Molina with resistant variants
from Taiwan planted at Lapanday plantation
in Callawa, Davao City.
Bioversity International and the Bureau of Agricultural Research of the Department of Agriculture are collaborating to outscale or plant in small Cavendish farmers' farms in Mindanao two Cavendish variants from Taiwan which have been observed to be resistant to the Fusarium Wilt TR4 currently threatening big and small Cavendish plantations in Mindanao.
Dr. Agustin Molina is the top man of Bioversity in the region and he will be working closely with DA-BAR's Nicomedes Eleazar in implementing the project starting next month. The project will run for three years and is expected to enable the farmers to continue producing Cavendish for export. The Bureau of Plant Industry will also be collaborating.
The banana variants from Taiwan that have been observed to be resistant to the Fusarium Wilt Race 4 are No. 119 and 219. These have been previously planted in areas that were infected with the disease in the Callawa plantation of Lapanday Food Corporation and have so far remained uninfected by the disease..
We visited the place last March 19 together with Dr. Molina who had earlier collaborated with Lapanday in testing the said variants, also referred to as somaclones. Dr. Molina told us that somaclones are variants in tissue-cultured plants with desirable characteristics.
The fruit bunches of 119 and 219 are a bit smaller than the conventional Cavendish grown for export but the fruits are sweeter which is one quality that most Japanese importers are looking for.
Lapanday will produce the tissue-cultured planting materials to be used for planting by the small scale farmers, most of them contract growers of the big companies.It is hoped that the farmers will be able to continue producing  export quality bananas with the two resistant variants.
DA-BAR has been helping a lot of private entrepreneurs involved in agricultural pursuits. One of the beneficiaries of DA-BAR's assistance is Antonio Arcangel of Batac City who has been developing various products from Sweet Sorghum.

Another is Engr. Gigi Zaballero of Ahcil Laboratories in Cebu who developed Antica, an organic fungicide with bactericidal properties. Zaballero was given a cash grant by DA-BAR for the field testing of Antica on rice diseases.

Apple Makopa at Teresa Orchard & Nursery

Photo shows Nilda Montilla smiling as she shows a cluster of newly harvested Apple Makopa at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal.
This is an imported variety that produces big maroon fruits that are fleshy and juicy.
Marcotted planting materials are available at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery. This can be planted in the ground or in a rubberized container. The fruits in photo were harvested from a plant in a container.
The marcotted planting materials will fruit within a year or two as long as it is provided with adequate fertilizers and a good growing medium. 
A well established marcot costs P250. For more info call or text 0917-841-5477. Better still, visit Teresa Orchard & Nursery. It is along the road, about 30 meters before the Teresa-Morong boundary. Teresa is the town next to Antipolo City. There is a big arch at the boundary of Teresa and Morong, Rizal.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

JUN CATAN: Congee Advocate

Our friend Gonzalo "Jun" Catan, a multi-awarded inventor and founder-owner of Mapecon, has a suggestion to cut rice consumption and help cut rice importation.

He suggests that more people should eat congee for breakfast instead of the full meal with rice. He does that everyday, adding malunggay to his lugaw. He swears that this is very healthy and economizes on rice.
Another way of cutting rice consumption is to eat sweet potato instead of rice. Some people are doing this already. One is Fred Yap, a fisheries expert who used to suffer from hypertension. After shifting to a sweet potato diet (in place of rice), he is much healthier now and his food cost has also gone down. He eats sweet potato with all the usual viands that go with rice. Another sweet potato eater is Pio Rodriguez who is a regular member of the Kaunlaran Sa Agrikultura radio program aired every Sunday morning, 4:30 to 7:30, at radio station DWWW, 774 khz on the AM band.
We, too, love to eat steamed sweet potato roots for breakfast together with the usual breakfast fare. 

Sweet Sorghum Syrup Better Than Honey?

A laboratory analysis in India shows that Sweet Sorghum Syrup is superior in some aspects to Honey. For instance, Sweet Sorghum Syrup contains 1,810 mg potassium per 100 g while Honey contains only 90 mg. Syrup contains 160 mg calcium per 100 g while Honey contains only 5 mg per 100 g. Syrup contains 11 mg phosphorus while Honey contains 4.10 mg only. Syrup contains 10 mg Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) while Honey has only 0.06 mg.

The analysis was done by CFTRI of Mysore, India and ITALAB Pvt. Ltd. of Mumbai, India.

In the Philippines, Antonio Arcangel is the only fellow who is producing Sweet Sorghum Syrup commercially. His product is now distributed in 75 outlets from Ilocos in the North up to Metro Manila. Sweet Sorghum Syrup is now used for sweetening coffee, pancake and others. It is also taken by itself. A couple of tablespoons may be taken at a time as food supplement.

Arcangel says he takes Sweet Sorghum Syrup one shot at a time. He claims it has been keeping him alert and in good condition. He can drive his car straight from Ilocos to Manila without resting along the way.
Arcangel also produces Sweet Sorghum vinegar through a protocol he has developed through the help of the Bureau of Agricultural Research. With the financial help from DA-BAR, he has also developed a protocol in making Sweet Sorghum Syrup.
He is also set to produce commercially Sweet Sorghum Sugar Powder, a new product that he developed. Previously, Sweet Sorghum juice could not be made to crystalize. Cooking it only resulted in the production of syrup. Now he can convert syrup into a powder which is said to retain the nutrient contents of the syrup. He is again expecting the support from DA-BAR to pursue his new project.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Bhagwa Pomegranate in Teresa

These are seedlings of Bhagwa variety of pomegranate from India which are growing very well at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal.
These can be grown direct in the ground or in large containers, The ones in medium rubberized containers in Teresa are particularly fast growing because they are provided with a growing medium that is a mixture of Durabloom fertilizer, garden soil and rice hull. 
There's keen interest in growing pomegranate because of its reported medicinal attributes. It contains a lot of antioxidants and is also said to be essential in maintaining good health of the prostate gland.
Farming enthusiasts are invited to visit Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal. The place is very easy to locate. It is along the road, Km. 36.6, about 30 meters before the Teresa-Morong boundary. Teresa is the town next to Antipolo City. Call or text 0917-841-5477 for more info.

Edible Wild Fern Everywhere We Go

Edible wild fern being sold in Liliw's sidewalk.
EVERYWHERE we went in the last few weeks, we have been encountering the edible wild fern, whether at meal time or in the market.
When we visited Costales Nature Farms in Majayjay, Laguna early February, we enjoyed the fresh salad served by Josie Costales. The same was true when we were invited to Baler, Aurora province. We feasted on the salad of edible wild fern served morning, noon and night.
Then when we went to Liliw, Laguna last March 23, freshly gathered edible wild fern, wrapped in banana leaves, was plentiful in the sidewalks being sold by enterprising women (see photo). Each bundle was being  sold for P20. 

First Asian Irrigation Forum, April 11-13

THE FIRST ASIAN IRRIGATION FORUM will be held on April 11 to 13 at the headquarters of the Asian Development Bank in Mandaluyong City.
The Forum aims to identify ways to address the competing challenges in irrigation and determine alternative investment options. It will bring together leading representatives of farmers, organizations that drive the agricultural supply chain, irrigation professionals from public and private sectors, academia, researchers, civil society and other multilateral development banks.
During the three days, forum participants will assess the directions that evolve as farmers seek to provide food, fiber and biofuels required to sustain the economies and the growing population of Asia Pacific.
On the first day, Dr. Prabhu Pingali of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will talk on Asian Agriculture in the Context of Global Food Security. This will be followed by Dr. Gao Zhanyi, president of ICID. He will talk on How Irrigation is Responding to the Challenge of Volatility, Vulnerability in Agriculture. Food and Water Supply in Asia will be discussed by Hiroyuki Konuma, deputy secretary general of FAO.
There are many interesting topics of discussions in the three days. For more information, you may contact Olivia Sylvia O. Inciong, External Relations Officer, at (0917)-810-0056 or at oinciong@adb.org.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Most Educational Booth In Garden Show


The Living Wall showcased by Dr. Benito S. Vergara at the recent Los Banos Garden Show was adjudged the “Most Educational Booth”. It consisted of different plants with small leaves like selaginella, mayana and many others. These are planted in small plastic bags and then arranged in such a way that they are made into a Living Wall. Photo shows Dory S. Bernabe, president of the Cactus and Succulent Society of the Philippines, standing beside Dr. Vergara’s special exhibit.

FHIA Banana at MMSU, Batac City

THESE are really big bunches of FHIA banana photographed sometime back at the demo farm at the Mariano Marcos State University in Batac City, Ilocos Norte. The guys checking one big bunch are Dr. Agustin B. Molina (left) of Bioversity International and Dr. Heraldo Layaoen, a vice president of MMSU who is better known as project leader of the Sweet Sorghum research and development program. The banana variety was introduced by Dr Agustin Molina from Honduras. FHIA stands for Fundacion Hondureno de Investigacion Agricola.
While the FHIA banana is not as sweet as the Cavendish ordinarily grown by the big exporters, it can be a good material for making banana chips.

Dr. Molina is a senior scientist and is the Regional Coordinator of Bioversity International's Commodities for Livelihoods Program. He leads banana research efforts in the Asia Pacific region primarily by bringing together R&D collaborations from the academe, government, NGOs, and the private industry through the Banana Asia-Pacific Network (BAPNET). As a scientist, he is the leader of the global research efforts of Bioversity International to address important pests and diseases, conservation and use of banana genetic diversity.
Bioversity, through Dr. Molina, has been instrumental in initiating a public-private partnership that has resulted in the rehabilitation of the lakatan plantings of small farmers in Northern Luzon in recent years. That's through the use of tissue cultured planting materials sourced from big laboratories in Mindanao. The small bare root seedlings are transported to Luzon by air. These are then cultured in nurseries near where they are going to be planted. This facilitates the transport of planting materials to the countryside.

PCAARRD Targets Small Banana Farmers

Dr. Agustin Molina (4th from left),  PCAARRD staff  and
other visitors at the farm of Almario Alcaraz where improved
banana farming techniques are being tested.
In the wake of the outbreak of the Fusarium or Panama disease affecting some Cavendish banana plantations in Mindanao, government agencies that have to do with agriculture are mobilizing their resources to help address the problem.
Big amounts of funds have been announced by government agencies to be used to address the banana disease problem. These are the Department of Agriculture, The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), and the DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research.
In the case of PCAARRD, an agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), it has been addressing the needs of the smallhold banana farmers. For instance, one ongoing PCAARRD project centers on the “Adoption of Science and Technology-Based Integrated Crop Management and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) in Lakatan and Cardaba”. The project was launched even before the Fusarium disease was played up in the newspapers and other media.
The rationale for targeting the smallhold farmers is that the big players in the industry, the growers and exporters of Cavendish banana, can as well take care of themselves. They have the technical expertise and the funds to take care of themselves.
Targeting to help the small banana farmers is just right. After all, they produce more than 70 percent of the total banana production in the country. Yet they are the most in need of help through the adoption of improved farming practices.
Together with the staff of the Crops Research Division of PCAARRD and Dr. Agustin B. Molina of Bioversity International, we visited some of the small banana farmer-cooperators in Mindanao. One of them is Kagawad Almario Alcaraz of Sitio Liboton, Brgy. Kalao, Moncayo town in Compostela Valley province.
A 7,000-square meter portion of his farm was used to demonstrate how science-based banana growing technologies could improve Alcaraz’s income. There are a number of  technologies that are being taught to the farmers like Alcaraz. One of them is the use of disease-free planting materials, which means tissue-cultured seedlings. Another is the planting in straight rows so that there is better penetration of light among the plants. Then there is the desuckering technique. Only one major plant should be retained per hill, followed by a junior sucker, and if necessary a third one that will be allowed to grow when the fruit of the mother plant is maturing.
Right fertilization, proper drainage, deleafing (removing the old non-functional leaves), weeding and some other chores are being taught to the farmers. Monitoring of disease occurrence is also important so that solution could be immediately taken whenever needed.
  In the farm of Alcaraz, 700 tissue-cultured seedlings were planted in July 2010. After more than a year later, 630 fruit bunches were harvested, weighing 14 to 16 kilos per bunch for a total of 9,450 kilos. Gross sales amounted to P162,540.  The total expenses incurred by Alcaraz was P70,000 which included the cost of constructing the canals, land preparation and labor. The cost of the seedlings (P12 each) was not included because that was provided free by the project. That would have been an additional P8,400. That’s not much. The net profit would still be P84,050 from that 7,000 square meters. Not bad for a small farmer.
Without the improved  farming practices, the harvest would not have been as much. The usual practice of most farmers is to plant their seedlings at random and the production is usually very low. They don’t practice desuckering so that the fruits are very small.
Dr. Agustin Molina of Bioversity International observed that some of the recommended practices were not strictly followed in the farm of Alcaraz. For instance the drainage canals were not so effective because the plants were grown in the flat ground, not elevated, so that many of the plants were poorly drained. And that could be the reason why the fruit bunches weighed only an average of 15 kilos each.
 Normally, according to Dr. Emily Fabregar of Lapanday Food Corporation which produces a lot of tissue-cultured lakatan and Cavendish bananas, the tissue-cultured plants could produce bunches that weigh 28 kilos each.
By the way, PCAARRD has been collaborating with Bioversity International in implementing its program of helping the small scale banana farmers not only in Mindanao but also in the Visayas and Luzon. It was Bioversity through its Asia-Pacific and Oceania coordinator, Dr. Agustin Molina, that initiated the protocol promoting the use of tissue-cultured planting materials in Northern Luzon several years back.
Dr. Molina negotiated a partnership with the private sector to help in the project. He requested Lapanday Food Corporation, for instance, to produce tissue-cultured lakatan for sale to farmers in Northern Luzon whose previous plantings were devastated by bunchy top virus.
The model that has worked well is this. The small plantlets are air-shipped to Manila for eventual delivery to the provinces where they will be hardened in the nursery preparatory to planting in the field. This way, the mode of transporting the planting materials is very economical. One small carton, for instance, contains 2,500 plantlets.
The same is being done in Mindanao today. Those who are planting in different places in Mindanao source their small plantlets from Lapanday and some other tissue culturists. Then these are grown into a size ready for field planting near where the plantations are located.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


THIS is the cover of April 2012 issue of Agriculture Magazine published by the Manila Bulletin and edited by Zac B. Sarian. The lady in photo with the big bunch of Mama Sita banana is Dr. Herminia David, a lady professor who attended the Agri-Kapihan at the St. Vincent Seminary where a couple of Mama Sita bananas were in fruit at that time.
The plant is grown in very poor stony soil yet the bunch is really big. The plant is low growing.
The April issue carries a lot of interesting stories that could be inspiring to aspiring as well long-time practicing farmers. Copies are available in bookstores and the national distribution network of the Manila Bulletin.
Agriculture Magazine is the most widely circulated magazine of its kind in the Philippines.

Bohol Mayor Goes For Organic Farming

Dr. Frank de la Pena and Mayor Jun Evasco
One municipal head who is really serious in propagating organic farming in his own town is Mayor Leoncio “Jun” Evasco of Maribojoc, Bohol. We met him at an organic agriculture presentation at the Natural Farming Institute in Panabo City last March 19.
The presentation was attended by the head of the Agricultural Training Institute, officials of TESDA, Department of Trade and Industry executives, farmers, Davao City officials and other stakeholders.
Mayor Evasco is in the process of setting up the facilities for a demo farm and training center on organic agriculture in Brgy. Bayacaba, Maribojoc. He has already planted 10 kinds of grasses and several leguminous shrubs on two hectares that will be used as feed for the farm animals. The buildings for goats, pigs, office and some other facilities are already up. In the process of construction is a fermentation house where the fermented juices of fruits, vegetables and other plants will be processed for use in organic farming. He says training will start middle of this year when everything will already be in place.
A former priest who was also a former member of the New People’s Army who returned to the fold of the law, Jun is now in his second term as mayor of Maribojoc.  In 2010, he was adjudged national winner of the Seal of Good Housekeeping given by the Department of Interior and Local Governments for which he was given a P1-million cash award that he can use in whatever project he chooses. In 2011, he won again and was again given the same amount. This year, he made it again.
Mayor Evasco is using his cash awards for the training center and demo farm. To prepare for his project, he himself underwent training at the Natural Farming Instute of Frank de la Pena in Panabo City. The members of the town council, the staff of the municipal agriculture office have also undergone training in Panabo.
He said that Maribojoc is a small town with no tourist destinations to speak of. However, he has something in mind that will fit well with the tourism boom in Bohol where there are a lot of resorts and tourist attractions. He said, he plans to make Maribojoc the producer of organic vegetables, fruits, fish and meat for the tourists patronizing the resorts and hotels in his province.
Aside from the farmers, those who will be trained at the center will include the barangay officials, women and out-of-school youth.
The trainees will undergo hands-on practice in growing organic crops that include vegetables and fruits, organic chickens, pigs and goats, and organic fish. Mayor Evasco said that ponds for hito and tilapia are already in place.
The goat house for 12 milking animals is also ready for occupancy. The women could as well take care of goats which they can feed with grasses and legumes they can grow in their backyard. They could also process organic food products.
Mayor Evasco also has his own vision of having a tourist attraction in Maribojoc someday. He said that the town is traversed by a big river, the Abatan river, which originates in the mountains of Central Bohol, passing through four other towns. Some day they will come up with a floating market for organic products in the Abatan river, something like the floating market in Thailand.
That would be really something to see, not only for foreign but also for local tourists.

Dr. Emily Fabregar: Tissue Culture Expert

DR. EMILY FABREGAR is head of the Research and Development Department of Lapanday Foods Corporation, one of the big banana companies growing Cavendish bananas for export.
She is in charge of the tissue culture laboratory which produced about 1.5 million tissue cultured Cavendish for their own company's use last year.
The lab also produced some 600,000 tissue-cultured lakatan for sale to various private growers last year, not only in Mindanao but also in Luzon and elsewhere.
Dr. Agustin Molina of Bioversity International who has been  helping government and private agencies involved in farming, particularly bananas,  said that the big tissue culture laboratories in Mindanao, such as that of Lapanday,.are the best sources of tissue-cultured lakatan. The small plantlets are transported to Luzon and hardened in nurseries near where these plants would be planted. A total of 2,500 small plants removed from the flask can be contained in one ordinary carton which is simply air-freighted to Luzon.
It is true that there are tissue culture laboratories put up in some colleges of agriculture in the provinces but these cannot produce enough of the same quality and cost like what the big laboratories are producing. 
To Dr. Molina, the setting up of the laboratories in the colleges is a failure if the intention was to produce tissue cultured planting materials for commercial plantations. They may be useful for teaching students.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

National Pangasius Conference Set

The National Pangasius Conference will be held on March 30-31, 2012 at the Gems Hotel in Antipolo City. About 200 attendees are expected to participate in the discussions about the latest developments in this freshwater fish species which is being promoted tor culture by fish farmers all over the country.
Speakers will discuss the hatchery techniques as well as grow-out practices, feeding, water management, processing and other technologies.
The conference is under the auspices of the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Agriculture and other agencies.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

She Wants To Duplicate Mrs. Villar's Project

Mrs. Villar with Roberto Villalon checking.
organic fertilizer from household wastes.
MILA A. CELESTE, a volunteer coordinator of the Science of Identity Foundation in La Union, wants to duplicate the project of Mrs. Cynthia Villar about converting household wastes into organic fertilizer. Their foundation launched in October 2011 an outreach program called Good Organic Resource Actions (GORA). They aim to minimize the destructive habit of burning backyard and agricultural wastes. They have already piloted this in selected public schools and some barangays and towns. So far, Mila says, the response from the recipients is very positive that the staff of DENR Region 1 offered to team up with their program so it can be adopted in all towns of La Union.
Their aim on the municipal level is waste management in public markets. Now, she would like to get in touch with Mrs. Villar so she could get more information. Mila said she read our article on Mrs. Villar's project in the March issue of Agriculture Magazine which we edit. We also featured Mrs.Villar's project in this blog.
The best way to get in touch with Mrs. Villar is thru Nini Enrique who works for Mrs. Villar. Nini's contact numbers are: 0917-855-0708 and 02-216-6547.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Vietnam Pummelo In A Container

IF YOU Have a limited space where you live and you love to grow fruits, you can grow your fruit trees in containers. Just like this Vietnam pummelo that is grown in a medium size rubberized container. The plant is just over a year old but it is already fruiting.
The Vietnam pummelo produces big fruits that are sweet and juicy. The one in photo is at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal. (0917-841-5477 or 0926-745-0401).
Other fruit trees that will fruit well even if grown in a container include balimbing, duhat, Perante orange, makopa, chico, Key Lime and others.
One trick is to provide a good growing medium that is rich in organic matter. Put a lot of organic fertilizer like Durabloom. You can also add complete inorganic fertilizer once a month. Spraying the leaves with foliar fertilizer will also produce good results.

Mini Makopa Season

THE Mini Makopa is once again in season in the Philippines, particularly at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal.
This is a low growing variety that produces big clusters of small, seedless fruits that are brilliant pink. The fruits are crunchy and are ideal for making salad together with other fruits. Marcotted plants grown in a container will bear fruit in one year. Fruiting could be two times a year.
Marcotted planting materials are now available at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery. The place is easy to locate. It is along the road, about 30 meters before the Teresa-Morong, Rizal boundary. Teresa is the next town to Antipolo City. Call or text 0917-841-5477 for more information.

An Institute For Organic Farmers

The ongoing trend is production of healthy foods, which means naturally-farmed food products that are not sprayed with chemical pesticides or meat products that are not laced with antibiotics.
The problem is that there are no well-established institutions where interested individuals can learn the fine points of organic farming. Most of the seminars or short courses are conducted by individuals who have some experience in organic agriculture. The curriculum is not included in formal institutions of learning such as the college of agriculture and universities.
Of course, the pioneering individuals are doing good service to the movement. But if the training is well organized, it could be more effective in promoting the organic movement. A healthier partnership of the private sector with the government could materialize.
Probably that was what was in the mind of Dr. Francisco de la Pena Jr. when he decided to put up about a couple of years ago his Natural Farming Institute in Panabo City. After all, he is the founder of two colleges in Davao del Norte, one Tagum and the other in Panabo.
So far, he has established showcases of naturally-farmed pigs, chickens, goat, vegetables, bananas, papaya and even bangus. He has formulated an organic fish feed  (he is a fisheries expert with a PhD degree), and has vermiculture bins for the production of organic fertilizer. The institute has also a fermentation house where fermented juices of fruits and plant materials are processed for application in organic farming.
The first batch of trainees came fromDavao City consisting of mostly barangay officials. The strategy is to train the higher ups in the community so they can influence their constituents to adopt organic farming techniques more effectively.
Trainees at the Natural Farming Institute also come from other provinces. For instance, the officials and council members of Maribojoc, Bohol, including Mayor Leoncio Evasco, have undergone training in Panabo.

Organic Bananas At NFI Panabo

BANANAS are growing very well the organic way at the Natural Farming Institute that was put up by Dr. Francisco de la Pena in Panabo City to train farmers, local government officials, entrepreneurs, hobbyists and commercial producers on the basics of organic agriculture. Posing with the bananas is Ibno Turabin from Zamboanga City who is an avid orgnic farming advocate. Organically produced bananas could command a premium price not only in the local market but also abroad. Japan, for one, is said to be interested in importing organic bananas and other fruits.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pamplona Eco Park

More people are getting interested in putting up projects for Agritourism. Dr. Pablito P. Pamplona, the fruit expert who retired from the University of Souithern Mindanao, wrote that he is developing an Agritourism Park that is based on fruit trees, oil palm, kaong for sugar production, sweet coconut and others.

He already has fruiting farms of more than 1,000 fruiting Magallanes pummelo, 3,000 Longkong lanzones, mangosteen, exotic mango varieties, oil palm, rubber and sweet coconut.

How The Sweet Sorghum Sugar Powder Was Conceived

Soon after we posted What's New In Sweet Sorghum in this blog and also published it in our column in the Manila Bulletin (March 16, 2012), so many congratulatory messages were received ty Tony Arcangel. He was after all the first fellow to conceive how dry sugar could be produced from sweet sorghum juice. 
Tony is an engineer who stayed in Canada for 20 years. A few years back he came back to the Philippines and decided to specialize in commercializing sweet sorghum products. He is now producing commercially sweet sorghum vinegar through natural fermentation and sweet syrup. Now, his sweet sorghum sugar powder has a big potential commercially because the product is claimed to have a low glycemic index (GI) which means that it is superior to the sugarcane sugar. It could be used by diabetics and nondiabetics for sweetening their coffee and other food products that need sugar. At present coconut sap sugar (simply called Coco Sugar in the market) is a hot item globally because of its low GI. 
The sweet sorghum sugar powder offers advantages over Coco Sugar in terms of the production of the raw materials. Sorghum can be produced very fast by even the ordinary farmer. It can be grown in many parts of the country.

The sweet sorghum sugar powder is produced by spray-drying the syrup. The juice is first turned into syrup and then it is spray-dried with the use of a spray-drying machine.

HOW THE IDEA CAME ABOUT - What gave him the idea to try producing sweet sorghum sugar powder was his observation in Canada. He said, in Canada they are making powder out of animal blood. Maybe, the technique can also work on sweet sorghum juice.

Fortunately, he went to the Department of Science and Technology to see if his idea is feasible. Fortunately the DOST has a spray-drying machine. That's it! They were successful in producing the sweet sorghum sugar powder.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Jackfruit With Over A Hundred Fruits!

HAVE you seen a jackfruit as prolific as this one in photo? Mr. and Mrs. Rodrigo Espana pose with their extremely prolific jackfruit in General Santos City. This is just an ordinary variety which did not previously produce any significant number of fruits. However, when Rodrigo applied two formulations of growth and fruit enhancers developed by Alfonso G. Puyat, the tree produced over a hundred fruits. Some of the fruits (about 50 percent) have already been thinned out.

One formulation hastens the vegetative development of the plant while the other induces the production of a lot of fruits. The technique requires a lot of organic fertilizers applied to the ground. Puyat’s formulations are sprayed on the leaves. They make the tree hungry so it has to take up as much nutrients from the soil as possible. Even if the manure, for instance, is not yet fully decomposed, the tree will be able to absorb the nutrients in the manure. The fruits are sweet because the fruiting formulation contains a lot of potassium. 

Of course, some of the fruits have to be thinned when they are about 1 to 2 kilos each and could be sold or used as vegetable.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Agritourism Conference Set

THE First National Agritourism Research Conference in the Philippines will be held on June27-29, 2012 under the auspices of Tourism Foundation Inc. and the Los Banos-based SEARCA or Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture. The venue has not been announced, however.
Topics include "Theory and Practice in the Philippine Agritourism Sector," "Financing Agritourism Initiatives/Marketing and Business Development," "Partnerships and Collaboration in Agritourism Ventures," "Cultural and Historical Aspects of Agritourism," and "Policy and Regulatory Concerns of Agritourism/Certification/Sustainability Challenges."
SEARCA Director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. said the conference is open to stakeholders in the country's agritourism sector, including practitioners, regulators, interest groups and academics, all of whom are invited to present completed and ongoing research projects related to agritourism.
For more info, contact: agritourism@agri.searca.org. You may also call tel. No. +63-49 536-2365 to 67 local 159. You may also call Eli Paolo Fresnoza, assistant professor, Asian Institute of Tourism, UP Diliman (email: paolofresnoza@gmail.com; telefax +63-2-922-3894).

Baguio Veggies for Boracay

Although Baguio is quite far from the tourist island of Boracay, a lot of vegetables are supplied from the Cordillera highlands. One trader in Caticlan is responsible for buying the highland vegetables for Boracay retailers. These include cabbage, carrots, cucumber, Baguio beans, sayote, peppers and others. An interview with a retailer in Boracay revealed that the buyers prefer cabbage from Baguio because it is claimed to have better taste than those grown in the lowland.
Two 10-wheeler truckloads are bought by the Caticlan trader every week, each truck having a capacity of 20 tons. The trader has posted his brother in Baguio to take care of the buying of vegetables. The truck that is dispatched on Wednesday arrives in Caticlan by Roro in the evening of the next day (Thursday).
The truck has reserved space for other items purchased in Divisoria and Batangas. Sourced from Divisoria are spices (garlic, onion) and imported fruits such as apples and oranges. In Batangas, 20 crates of eggs, each crate containing 360 eggs, are loaded.
The trader estimates that the cost of transporting vegetables from Baguio to Boracay amounts to P4 per kilo.
For backload from Caticlan, the trucks are loaded with scrap cartons and plastics for sale to junk shops in   Luzon.
Aside from Baguio vegetables, the Caticlan trader also buys ginger from suppliers from Gen. Santos City, squash and tomatoes from Cagayan de Oro.  

Aurora Province: Buko Source

THE Province of Aurora is claimed to have the biggest concentration of coconut trees in Luzon, a fact not known to many people. It is said to have more coconut trees than the provinces of Quezon and Laguna. Some 14,000 hectares are planted to coconut in Baler, the capital town, alone.
Sen. Edgardo Angara told us during our visit to Aurora on February 17 that no less than 50 trucks every week deliver buko or young coconut to buyers in Central Luzon up to as far as Laoag City in Ilocos Norte.
Baler is said to be the source of raw materials for "bukayo" makers in Pangasinan. Sen. Angara added that Aurora is also the main source of coconut seedlings for planting. Last year, 16,000 seedlings were produced in Aurora.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Large Planting Material of Abiu

If you are in a hurry to have a fruiting Abiu in your farm or garden, better get one like these in photo. They are large planting materials at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal.
With proper care, these may bear fruit in just two years. Abiu is a delicious fruit from South America. The ripe fruit is yellow and inside is a white luscious flesh. One to three seeds may be inside. The taste is somewhat similar to the more familiar Caimito. Those interested in these planting materials may text or call 0917-851-5477.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Steam Your Sliced Camote

Some people are advocating the eating of more sweet potato or camote for two good reasons. One is that it will help us reduce rice consumption, big quantities of which are imported. Second, camote is healthy food. One fellow who will tell you that is Fred Yap, a fisheries expert who used to suffer from high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Now he is eating camote instead of rice and he swears that his health has improved tremendously.
One healthy way to prepare sweet potato for the table is to slice the root as in photo and steam the same. There is no oil used and cooking is very fast. In five minutes, the slices could already be cooked. Try this, you will be glad you did. We have been doing this for a few years now. We like steaming the variety with yellow flesh and the purple variety (which is not always available). The sliced yellow root in photo is a Taiwanese variety. It is sweet with a nice consistency.

Farm Visits Are Very Educational

Not a few readers have been asking us how best they can start their own farm projects. They are either employees or professionals who would like to have a hobby farm or an honest-to-goodness farm business. Some are young people while others are retirees.
Well, it is very easy to commit mistakes in starting a farm. So I often tell those who consult us to visit as many farms as possible. I tell them to visit the type of farms that they would like to undertake. Oh yes, there are so many choices in farming. One can go into ornamental plants, fruit trees, vegetables, livestock and poultry, fisheries and so on.
While it is a good idea to visit farms, sometimes it is difficult to locate one we would like to visit. Sometimes the owner might be reluctant to show his farm, especially to a stranger. In which case, it is a good idea to join a farm tour, just like what Agri-Aqua Network International (AANI) has been undertaking.

For those who are interested in organic farming, for instance, AANI will be conducting a farm tour of one of the best organic farms in the country – the Costales Nature Farms in Brgy. Gagalot, Majayjay, Laguna. This was started in 2005 by Ronald Costales who was recently adjudged the First Prize winner in “The Outstanding Philippine Organic Agriculturist” Awards  given by the Rotary Club of Cubao East.
This will be the second time that AANI will conduct a farm tour of the Costales farm. Last March 4, more than 80 farming aficionados joined the tour. There, they tasted the organic vegetables and fish plus edible wild ferns for lunch. They were also given a lecture by Ronald himself on the techniques in organic farming that he has been employing in growing his crops, fish and livestock.
The farm is now an accredited tourist destination by the Department of Trade and Industry.
Those interested to join the tour may contact Pol Rubia at 0917-847-5071. Paid reservations will be given their seat assignment in the aircon bus.

Monday, March 12, 2012

AANI Farm Tour: March 25, 2012

The AANI will conduct a second Farm Tour of the Costales Nature Farms in Brgy. Gagalot, Majayjay, Laguna on Sunday, March 25, 2012.
Ronald Costales, the founder, was recently adjudged the First Place Winner in "The Outstanding Philippine Organic Agriculturist (TOPOA) Award given by the Rotary Club of Cubao East headed by Conrad Dieza. 
Last March 4, AANI conducted its first Farm Tour to the Costales Nature Farms with more than 80 participants.
The attendees will enjoy eating the organic vegetables and will also have the chance to bring home some. There will be a lecture on organic farming by Ronald himself. The Costales Nature Farms produces organic vegetables, culinary herbs, pigs, free-range chicken, fish, rabbits and others. 
Those who would like to join the AANI Farm Tour should reserve with the AANI office at the weekend market at St. Vincent Seminary on Tandang Sora, Quezon City. Call or text Pol Rubia for more information at 0917-847-5071.

Pummelos Are Blooming In Luzon

While rambutan trees in Luzon are not yet flowering at this time, the pummelo trees are flowering profusely. That's the beauty about pummelo trees. Unlike mango trees, they don't have to be sprayed with flower inducers to make them bloom. Even if shower or rain overtakes the flowering, there is no damage done unlike in flowering mangoes. When mango flowers are overtaken by rain, they are usually ruined because of fungal attack. Not so with pummelo flowers.
Photo shows flowers of Nam Roi pummelo, a white variety from Vietnam, at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal. They will be ready for harvest by October, just in time for tasting during the Agrilink trade show which is usually held in early October at the World Trade Center-Metro Manila.

Delay in Rambutan Fruiting in Luzon

Due to the changing weather, rainy up to February, fruiting of rambutan is delayed in Luzon. Last year at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal, R5 and other varieties started flowering in late January. Today (March 12, 2012), there are no signs yet of emerging flowers. Young leaves are predominant.
On the other hand, longkong and durian started flowering as early as January this year. Durian could be harvestable in May or June.

Los Banos Garden Show: March 23-April 1

The Los Banos Garden Show will be held from March 23 to April 1 at the Seniors Social Garden at UP Los Banos. This is under the auspices of the Los Banos Horticultural Society. A special feature on Living Wall will be showcased which attendees can copy. This is said to be the landscaping trend in both indoors and outdoors. Living Wall landscaping was showcased during the 2010-2011 Taiwan International Flora. Dr. Benito S. Vergara of Los Banos has also reported that Living Wall landscaping is being done in Thailand. One example is the wall inside the Big C Mall in Bangkok.
In a Living Wall, the plants are grown vertically. This means more plants can be grown per square meter of ground. The concept is good for limited space. This can be done not only for ornamental plants. Vegetables could also be grown in the same way in the home grounds.

In the Philippines, one example of a Living Wall can be found in the home of Bobby Gopiao in Quezon City. A big concrete wall several meters high is completely covered with ferns.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Upcoming Event: 5th National Goat and Sheep Congress

On March 22-24, the 5th National Goat and Sheep Congress will be held in Clark, Pampanga under the auspices of the Federation of Goat and Sheep Producers Associations headed by Ben Rara. There will be a showcase of upgraded goats and sheep. There will be a competition of island-born animals. No imported animals will be entered. Contact Ben Rara at 0927-970-1253.

Upcoming Techno Forum

ON Saturday, March 17, there will be a Techno Forum at the Harbest Training Center in Carmen, Rosales, Pangasinan. There will be discussions on improved vegetables and other high value crops, drip irrigation with fertilization (fertigation), use of small tractors for land preparation for vegetables, tobacco and other crops. Contact Harbest Agribusiness at (02) 671-7411 to 14 for more details. Attendees will also be able to see the 500 varieties of Known-You Seeds being field tested at the Known-You Philippines experimental farm.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Don't Feed Too Much Spent Grains

Some livestock raisers, particularly cattle and goat raisers, feed their animals with spent grains from the beer factory. The animals love the feed because it is very palatable. But the advice of the expert we met in Thailand is that you should not feed too much brewers's spent grains. 
Why? He said that it will lead to acidosis in the stomach. The stomach will become too acidic so that the beneficial microflora will be killed. That means, digestion of the feed intake will be hampered. Much of the nutrients will not be digested and not used by the animal.


Listen to the radio program "Kaunlaran Sa Agrikultura" for the latest tips on fruit trees, ornamental plants, success stories, advice on various topics of interest to farmers, money-making opportunities, farm mechanization and others.

Kaunlaran sa Agrikultura is aired every Sunday from 4:30 to 7:30 in the morning at radio station DWWW, 774 khz on the AM band. The program is co-hosted by Tony S. Rola, Nina Manzanares-Agu and Zac B. Sarian.

Bhagwa Pomegranate Now Available

Planting materials of Bhagwa, the pomegranate variety from India, are now available at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal. You can plant the seedling in the ground or in a container. Our favorite container is the medium size rubberized container.

There is increasing interest in pomegranate because of its reported medicinal properties. It is high in antioxidants. It is claimed to be highly effective in maintaining a healthy prostate gland.

Teresa Orchard is very easy to locate. It is along the road, about 30 meters before the Teresa-Morong boundary. Teresa is the next town to Antipolo City. Call or text 0917-841-5477.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fruiting Black Pepper In A Pot

You can grow your own fruiting black pepper in a pot or some other container. The trick is to marcot the fruiting vines and plant them in a container. The fruiting vines will remain dwarf and will continue fruiting. This was proven in a study many years back at UP Los Banos by the late Salvador Dolar.

There are two types of vine that could be marcotted or rooted. One is the runner, a non-fruiting vine. This will become viny. The other is the fruiting vine. This will remain dwarf.

The Teresa Orchard & Nursery has rooted cuttings of the Paniyur variety from Kerala, India. This produces long fruit spikes.They are available at P100 per three rooted planting materials.

Mangosteen Seedlings in Teresa

MANGOSTEEN, the so-called Queen of Philippine Fruits, will also grow and bear fruit in Luzon for as long as the tree is adequately taken care of.
While the plant is young, it is best to provide partial shade. It is a slow grower so it is good to apply fertilizer frequently. Aside from applying a lot of organic fertilizer in the soil, it is also helpful to spray the plants with foliar fertilizer once a week or every two weeks. Chemical fertilizer (complete) may also be applied in the soil.
Bury the chemical fertilizer at least an inch below the surface. Then the plant should be immediately watered after applying the fertilizer.
Seedlings in big numbers are available at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery. The nursery is along the road, about 30 meters before the Teresa-Morong boundary, right side if coming from Antipolo. Teresa is the town next to Antipolo City. Call or text 0917-841-5477 for more info.

Tortoise Shell Bamboo

THIS is a rare bamboo that was exhibited in a garden show in Tokyo, Japan that we attended some time back.
It is called Tortoise Shell Bamboo because the internodes look like tortoise shell.
Many plant collectors who have earlier seen this photo that we took have been longing to own one.
Owning an unusual plant is the dream of plant aficionados. And they would be willing to pay a high price for it. And that is why some enterprising people in the plant business are always on the look out for something new. (Photo by Zac B. Sarian)

Some Tips on Flowering Durian

Durian trees in Luzon started to flower middle of last February 2012. The fruits will ripen in late May or June. More and more fruit tree farmers are planting durian in Luzon as they have proven it to be suited to many parts of the big island. Photo shows the clusters of unopened flowers of a hybrid durian from Malaysia which is grown at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal.
The Malaysian hybrid has small fruits (1.5 to 2 kilos) but is very fleshy and with excellent eating quality.
SOME TIPS: While the tree is in bloom, maintain sufficient moisture in the soil. Don’t apply nitrogenous fertilizer (urea) or the flowers will fall. When the flowers open, manually pollinate some of them. This is best done in the evening. Thin out some of the young fruits if there are too many in one cluster. You may spray Nevirol on the open flowers, a chemical that prevents the flowers and fruitlets from falling.

A Native Leea Species

IN Photo with Tess Baldonado is a nice specimen of a native Leea species, a mother plant at the Teresa, Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal.
While Teresa Orchard specializes in exotic fruit trees, there are a few selected ornamental plants that are being grown.
This species is still rare in the market. It is quite easy to propagate, however. Marcots easily produce roots in three weeks or one month.
The upper side of the leaves is dark green while the underside is purple.

Queen of Flowering Trees

IT'S now the blooming season of Amherstia nobilis, the so-called Queen of Flowering Trees. The tree at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal, is full of pendulous flower clusters at this time (March 8, 2012).
The flowering tree is a native of Burma or Myanmar and was named after Lady Amherst, the first lady of a governor general of India.
The Amherstia was introduced at the UP Los Banos before World War II but it has not become widespread because it does not normally bear fruit. The first time the tree in Los Banos produced large pink pods was when a senior researcher of the Department of Agronomy treated the flowers with hormone.
The tree is also difficult to multiply by marcotting. Out of 10 branches marcotted at Teresa, only two produced roots and eventually survived.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Banana with a Thousand Fingers

THAT'S me, Zac B. Sarian, posing with Pisang Siribu, the banana from Indonesia with a thousand fingers. This is not one for food production. There are just a few fingers that are edible, tasting like the ordinary Saba banana.
This variety is more of a curiosity plant. It could be an attention-getter in a plant collector's collection of unusual plants. It could be a money maker, however, for those who have acquired it ahead of others because collectors are usually willing to pay a high price for a sucker.
At any rate, it is not for food production.

Sweet Sorghum Processor

ANTONIO ARCANGEL of Batac City, Ilocos Norte, is a serious private investor in producing various sweet sorghum products.
He has been making vinegar out of sweet sorghum. Another product is sweet sorghum syrup. The latest we heard is that he has been able to produce sweet sorghum sugar powder through spray-drying. The sugar produced has low glycemic index which means it would be better than the sugar from sugarcane, especially for diabetics.
As of the moment, spray-drying is being done at the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). A commercial spray-dryer costs about P1.4 million. Hopefully, Tony would be able to acquire one through a research agency of the government.
Sweet sorghum juice is first turned into syrup. The syrup is then spray-dried to produce the sweet sorghum sugar powder.
Photo shows Tony Arcangel showing a bottle of sweet sorghum syrup.

Antica Now Available in Luzon

ANTICA, the first organic fungicide with bactericidal properties to be approved by the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority, is now available in Luzon through Manchem Industries (0917-532-0387, Tony Lucero).
Antica has been proven to be effective against various diseases, including anthracnose in mango, Sigatoka in banana, Tungro in rice and fungal diseases in vegetables.
Antica is a product of Ahcil Laboratories of Cebu. The product is an invention of a chemical engineer, Gigi Zaballero, now a multi-awarded scientist.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Nam Roi (White Vietnam Pummelo)

That's me, Zac B. Sarian, with the lady selling Nam Roi pummelo at the Can Tho Airport in Vietnam. The Nam Roi variety is an important commercial variety grown in Vietnam. It has white flesh that is juicy, sweet and easily detaches from the skin.

The Nam Roi pummelo is now grown in the Philippines. Fruiting trees in container can be seen at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal. Grafted and marcotted planting materials are available.
There's also a red version of Nam Roi. And it is called Dha Xanh.

His Tricycle For Veggie Delivery

Photo shows Leonardo Avila III of Davao City with his brand new tricycle which he uses to transport his vegetable harvests to the market. Avila is one of the previous trainees in vegetable production under the SM Foundation’s Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan Farmers’ Training Program on vegetable production in collaboration with Harbest Agribusiness. Under the program, farmers undergo hands-on training on the various aspects of producing high-value vegetables and other crops. Recently, SM Foundation launched its 39 batch of the training program in Davao City’s Mandog and Waan barangays. By having his own tricycle for delivery to the market, Avila’s vegetables don’t pass through a series of middlemen before they reach the consumers.

Balimbing In A Container

You can grow your favorite Balimbing (Star Fruit) in a container and yet get full-sized fruits. The trick is to grow it in a medium that is rich in organic matter and it should be fertilized with organic as well as complete chemical fertilizer. The beauty about growing the tree in a container is that it is portable and can be transferred to a desired location any time.
There are grafted Balimbing with big fruits that are juicy and sweet. There are those that are just 2.5 feet tall that are already flowering. Some can be had at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal. (0917-841-5477).

Grafted Duku Lanzones Available at Teresa

The Duku lanzones is a prolific fruit bearer and the fruits are sweet with a nice flavor. The fruits are also latexless and are very easy to open by pressing with the thumb and index finger. The skin is thicker than that of the ordinary lanzones so that it has a longer shelf life. Grafted planting materials in big numbers that are ready for planting are available at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal. For more info, contact 0917-841-5477.
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