Monday, April 16, 2012

Asking for ZAC's Farming Advice?

We receive a lot of messages (texts, email, phone calls) asking for advice or something else. Many don't give their names and addresses, some just ask what projects are most profitable for them, etc.
Just like an e-mailer who just said he is a new parent with a 21-year-old wife and a new child. He didn't give his name and address where he lives or where to put up his project (city, province or elsewhere). It's not easy to give the right advice without knowing the circumstances he is in and other relevant info about him.

SO HERE'S OUR ADVICE: Please give your Mobile Phone No. so I can respond immediately to your queries  even if I am out in the field (which is very often). If you want a face-to-face encounter, text me. You might want to see me at Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal so we can know each other better. But make an appointment. We prefer to meet just a few people at a time, not more than five. We can provide some practical advice and maybe learn from you also. There's no fee for seeing us. 

We prefer to meet people in the afternoon of Saturdays and Sundays. Text or call us at 0917-841-5477. This is Zac B. Sarian, agriculture editor of the Manila Bulletin and a hands-on farmer.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Urea Aborts Undesired First Watermelon Fruits

The watermelon experts will tell you that the first couple of fruits of the watermelon plant should be removed because it is better to retain the third or fourth fruits. The experts don't tell how to remove the first fruits. The assumption of most is that they could be clipped with the use of scissors.
In Oton , Iloilo, the growers have a practical way of eliminating the first fruits. They water the plants with a solution of urea fertilizer. Because urea is nitrogenous and it is for vegetative growth, applying the same on newly fruiting plants will abort the small fruits.
That's more practical than using scissors to remove the small first fruits. You are fertilizing the plants and removing the fruits that are not desired to develop. It could mean additional labor cost to remove by hand the fruits, especially when one is growing thousands of plants.

Salvador Guevarra Goes To Teresa

Salvador Guevarra of Sta. Ana, Pampanga, is a retiree who is very much interested in farming. He and his wife Angela, son Alvin and granddaughter Arella, recently visited Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal. They were really excited about the Mama Sita banana and the Indian black pepper (Paniyur).
The Mama Sita is in fruit in Teresa today and they were very much impressed by its big bunch and stout pseudostem (trunk). They were likewise excited about the Paniyur black pepper growing on mahogany trees and bearing fruits.
They got planting materials of Mama Sita, Paniyur, Abiu, Golden Queen and Peach mangoes, etc.
They were truly glad to see the orchard and nursery. They were able to taste Abiu and a new banana variety from Honduras called FHIA 17 which produces big fruits that are very nice to eat. All the members of the family love fruit trees and farming in general although they reside in Manila. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

ZAC Invited to Syngenta Demo Day in Singapore

We have been invited to attend  the Syngenta Crop Demonstration Day on April 26 at the Singapore Expo Convention and Exhibition Centre. The event aims to "bring to life Syngenta's new global integrated strategy and provide tangible examples of how it will operate in practice."
The afternoon will begin with an overview of the agricultural challenges we face and how Syngenta is addressing these challenges by helping farmers grow more from less. The attendees will then be invited to tour a series of crop exhibits that will show how Syngenta is innovating to provide an even better, more comprehensive offer in the company's key global crops like rice, corn, soybean, cereals, vegetables, specialty crops, sugarcane, oilseeds and lawn and garden.
The invitation was extended to us by Cindy Lim, Community and Media Relations Manager of Syngenta.

Grafted Longkong Sprayed With Power Grower Combo

Note the broad young leaves, thanks to Puyat's
Power Grower Combo.
These are grafted Longkong lanzones at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal that were sprayed with the Power Grower Combo formulated by Alfonso G. Puyat, an economist and agricultural researcher-inventor. Note the big new leaves that emerged soon after they were sprayed with Mr. Puyat's formulation.

The Power Grower Combo consists of powdered single fertilizer nutrients applied in combination with Puyat's own improved ANAA, a plant growth regulator.
Power Grower Combo facilitates the rapid uptake of plant nutrients in the soil. It is recommended therefore that adequate organic and non-organic fertilizers be applied within the root zone of the plants.
Mr. Puyat has another formulation for profuse fruit production. This is applied on fruiting trees that were earlier sprayed with Power Grower Combo. Called Heavy Weight Harvest, it facilitates the transport of the "cooked" plant food in the leaves to the flowers and developing fruits.
Mr. Puyat's formulations are effective on rice, corn, vegetables, fruit trees and practically every crop.

Resistant Cavendish for Small Farmers

Dr. Agustin Molina and Dr. Emily Fabregar checking the fruits of
resistant Cavendish variant in the Lapanday banana plantation in
Callawa, Davao City. Two variants have been observed to be resistant
to the Fusarium Wilt disease. These variants will be tissue-cultured for
growing in small farmer's fields in Mindanao under a new project of
Bioversity International and the Bureau of Agricultural Research.
Two banana varieties developed in Taiwan that have been observed to be resistant to Fusarium Wilt will soon be disseminated to small-scale banana farmers in the Davao provinces whose Cavendish bananas are being attacked by the wilt disease.
The new project is a collaboration of the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) and Bioversity International (BI) represented by Dr. Agustin B. Molina, it’s senior scientist and coordinator of its livelihood programs  in Asia-Pacific.
The project is in response to the increasing threat of the Fusarium Wilt disease in Cavendish banana plantations, both in the large scale farms as well as in the farms of small-scale independent growers.
Lately, the government authorities as well as the big plantation owners themselves have been alarmed by the increasing incidence of infections by the disease in the banana plantations in the Davao provinces and other Cavendish growing areas in Mindanao.

Naturally the different stakeholders are getting alarmed. After all, Fusarium wilt is a very serious banana disease. In the early 1950s the disease wiped out the vast banana plantations in Panama planted with the Gros Michel variety. This was eventually replaced with Cavendish which was found to be resistant to Fusarium Wilt Race 1. 

But there is a Fusarium Wilt that attacks Cavendish, the Tropical Race 4.The TR4 ravaged the Cavendish plantations in Taiwan which was one of the major producers of Cavendish banana for export to Japan and elsewhere in the '70s and ‘80s. Then in the early '90s TR4 prevented the growth of the Cavendish banana industry in Indonesia and Malaysia.
What makes the current Fusarium Wilt in the Philippines (called Tropical Race 4 or TR4) more alarming is that it also infects other locally grown varieties such as Lakatan and Latundan. Only Saba and Cardaba seem to be tolerant.
Under the project with a budget of P16-million, two varieties observed to be resistant to Fusarium TR4 will be planted in at least 20 pilot areas consisting of infected farms of at least four hectares per farmer. The varieties to be planted are GCTCV 119 and 219 that were developed in Taiwan and introduced in the Philippines by Bioversity. GCTCV stands for Giant Cavendish Tissue Culture Variant. Dr. Molina explained that among tissue-cultured plants there are some variants that possess some desirable characteristics.
These variants have been field tested in recent years at the Lapanday Cavendish plantation in Callawa, Davao City. It was Dr. Molina who convinced the owners of Lapanday to field test the said variants in places where Fusarium infection was observed. And of the different varieties tested, No. 119 and No. 219 have proven to be unaffected by the disease even if they were planted near the infected plants that have died.
What’s good about No. 119 and 219 is that the fruits are well accepted in the world market, especially in Japan. Dr. Molina said that the fruits of the variants are sweeter than the standard varieties, and that is a quality preferred by the Japanese buyers.
The only not so major disadvantage, Dr. Molina said, is that the bunches are a little smaller than the Grand Naine and Williams varieties that are currently grown in the Philippines. The plants also mature about two weeks later. But then what is more important is that they are not affected by Fusarium Wilt and the fruit quality is very good.
To make sure that the planting materials that will be grown in farmers’ fields are disease-free, they will be multiplied by means of tissue-culture. Lapanday, through Dr. Emily Fabregar, will be doing the tissue culturing of materials from disease-free mother plants.
The farmers will be involved in the hands-on operation in culturing the banana plants, from land preparation, seedling hardening, fertilization, irrigation and drainage under the guidance of technicians from the Department of Agriculture as well as by Dr. Molina himself. But the farmer has to be actively involved, including having to pay for the fertilizer, so that he will have a strong sense of participation.
The result of the pilot testing will showcase the improved practices that could mitigate the onslaught of the Fusarium disease. The technologies involved will then be disseminated to the rest of the Cavendish growers, particularly the small-scale independent growers.
Dr. Molina said that the independent growers play a major role in the production of bananas for the export market. In fact, they are responsible for producing 50 percent of the Cavendish exports today.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Big Banana From Honduras

NILDA MONTILLA of Teresa Orchard & Nursery shows an opened ripe fruit of a big banana variety from Honduras, courtesy of Dr. Agustin Molina of Bioversity International who introduced the same in the Philippines.
The plant could produce a bunch that could weigh 30 kilos or more. One hand that consisted of 13 pieces weighed 2.75 kilos. That means 5 pieces weigh more than a kilo!
The flesh is fine-textured with mild sweetness which could be good for diabetics and nondiabeticts, of course.
Dr. Molina suggests that you slice the fruit and place atop a cup or bowl of ice cream. He swears it tastes great. It is also great for making fruit salad together with other ingredients. The good thing about it is that the slices don't oxidize or turn brown after they are exposed to air.  It is also excellent for making banana cake, according to Dr. Molina. 
Moreover, it could be made into banana chips. A bunch could be turned into a lot of banana chips.
We are planting a few suckers in Teresa and we will tell you about our observations in the future. Actually, there are three varieties from Honduras which are all big varieties. They are FHIA 17, FHIA 18 and FHIA 25. FHIA means Fundacion Hondurena de Investigacion Agricola.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Peep Into Winning Vegetable Garden

Joshua Maniquis of Almario Elementary School with fruiting
Pipinito at the garden in Jose Rizal Elementary School during
the Community Day on April 11, 2012.
Attendees at the Community Day at the Jose Rizal Elementary
School's vegetable garden look at the pechay grown in discarded
tires and plastic containers from the junk shop.
The above are two of the photos taken at the Community Day at the Jose Rizal Elementary School in Tondo Manila. The Community Day is in connection with the Oh My Gulay Tanim Sa Kinabukasan (OMG-TSK) project on vegetable gardening in public elementary schools. This is a project of Sen Edgardo Angara's Oh My Gulay Project in tandem with the East-West Seed Company.
Eight elementary schools in Tondo are participating in this project aimed at encouraging school children to love eating vegetables as well as to teach them the basics of scientific vegetable growing.
Among the vegetables grown in containers as well as in the ground are pechay, Pipinito cucumber, okra, Morena eggplant, Diamante Max tomato, Himala upo, mustard and others.
The Oh My Gulay is supported by fund donors, most of them profitable corporations or foundations like the BDO Foundation and others.

Best School Vegetable Garden

The vegetable garden of Jose Rizal Elementary School in
Tondo, Manila, was adjudged the Best Vegetable Garden
under the Oh My Gulay - Tanim Sa Kaunlaran project  in
eight public elementary schools in Manila. Showing the
winner's certificate is Dr. Estela Liwanag, principal of the
Jose Rizal Elementary School. The awarding was made during
a Community Day on April 11, 2012 attended by teachers,
students, parents, DepEd officials East-West Seed staff and other

visitors. East-West Seed Company provided the seeds and
 technical supervision of the project
Gerry Galgo and Romulo Marundan of East-West Seed Co. show
trays of eggplant and tomato seedlings displayed during the
Community Day at the Jose Rizal Elementary School in Tondo.
A Community Day was held on March 11, 2012 at the Jose Rizal Elementary School in Tondo, Manila, to show to the public the vegetables grown by students in an urban setting undertaken under the auspices of the Oh My Gulay project of Sen. Edgardo Angara in tandem with the Tanim sa Kinabukasan project of East-West Seed Company.
Eight elementary schools participated in the OMG-TSK project where vegetables are grown in plots as well as in containers. The object is to promote the interest of school kids to plant and eat vegetables for their own good health.
Under the scheme, donors of funds provide the cash requirements of the project. Then the students, under the guidance of East-West technicians do hands-on gardening.They plant improved varieties and production technologies to produce bountiful harvests.
At the end the program during the Community Day, awards were given to winners in various competition categories. These included outstanding student gardeners, best garden design, best adoptors, etc. There was also a competition in cooking vegetables. The winners brought home with them gifts in cash and in kind.

Ship Captain Into Farming

Photo shows Democrito Java, a ship captain who is into his own brand of farming. He is posing here with a fruiting Paniyur, an Indian black pepper variety at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery which he visited lately, The mahogany tree serves as the host tree. He will be planting a lot of  this variety which produces long fruit spikes. 

Dick has bought a farm in Bataan where he has been planting exotic fruit trees and many other crops and farm animals.

Green Alugbati Grown From Seed

THIS is a photo of green alugbati grown from seed at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal. The initial leaves are very big and the branches that are newly emerged are very tender. They new shoots are just right for harvesting. They could be stir-fried with minced garlic and salt to taste.
Alugbati is a nutritious vegetable which is the favorite of many Ilonggos. The shoots could be used in cooking mungo. 
Aside from seed, alugbati is easily propagated by means of cuttings. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Power Grower Combo Boosts Pomegranate Growth

THESE are Bhagwa pomegranate which are grown in rubberized containers at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery. These amazingly grew fast in the last two weeks, putting up new shoots and the leaves are very healthy.
This could be the result of spraying with Alfonso G. Puyat's Power Grower Combo about two weeks ago. This is a formulation of single nutrient elements (NPK) plus ANAA, a plant growth regulator.
Before spraying, the plants were applied with about half kilo each of Durabloom organic fertilizer. According to Mr. Puyat, spraying the leaves will make the plant very hungry so that it will take up a lot of plant nutrients from the soil. These are "cooked" in the leaves through photosynthesis for immediate use by the plant. See also the effect of Power Grower Combo on tomatoes at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in the postings below.

Our Old Tomato Plants Looked Like This

This is how our old tomato plants looked
like last March 24 before they were defoliated
and sprayed with Alfonso Puyat's formulation

of Power Grower Combo..Photo taken 
by Zac B. Sarian on March 24, 2012.
This is how our old tomato plants looked like on March 24, 2012 when we decided to remove all the old rusty leaves and then sprayed them with Alfonso G. Puyat's Power Grower Combo, a plant growth enhancer that contains single elements of fertilizer in combination with ANAA, a plant growth regulator.
These plants were planted early December 2011 in our own vegetable garden at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery. They have been providing us with a lot of fruits since late February 2012. 
What we did was to remove all the rusted leaves and then sprayed Mr. Puyat's formulation for hastening plant growth.
The result is amazing. The plants 14 days after spraying look very young and healthy again. We expect to harvest from them at least a couple of months more. Of course, before spraying, we applied a handful of Durabloom Organic Fertilizer at the base of each plant.
You can see the effect of our treatment in the posting below.

Old Tomato Plants, Young Again

These tomato plants look very young and vigorous
 again, thanks to  Power Grower Combo. Photo taken
April 7, 2012 at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery.
This is how our old tomato plants looked like last April 7, 2012 when the photo was taken.
These are really old because they were planted early last December 2011. We have been harvesting a lot of fruits since late January. Just before March 24, 2012 they looked really old, most of their leaves have become rusted.
So we decided to remove all the drying leaves and just left the few green leaves at the top. Then we sprayed Alfonso G. Puyat's Power Grower Combo. Lo and behold! The plants look completely invigorated now. And they are coming up with fruits and  flowers again.
Puyat's Power Grower Combo works great on practically every crop. According to him, the sprayed plants feel very hungry so they take up a lot of nutrients from the soil, resulting in their renewed vigor. 
Puyat has another formulation for the promotion of heavy fruiting. It is called Heavy Weight Tandem. A jackfruit treated with the two formulations produced more than 100 fruit. It was earlier featured in this blog and in Panorama Magazine on April 1, 2012.
See how our tomato plants looked like before they were defoliated in the posting above.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Pangasius People With Indian Black Pepper

These are some of the attendees of the Pangasius Congress in Antipolo City who visited the Teresa Orchard and Nursery at the end of their conference. They came all the way from Northern Luzon down to Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao. Here they are posing with fruiting Indian black pepper growing on a mahogny tree. The Indian black pepper produces long fruit spikes. Planting materials are available in big quantities in Teresa.

Pangasius People Visit Teresa Orchard & Nursery

The attendees of the National Pangasius Congress held in Antipolo City last March 30-31 visited the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal as an extra activity at the end of the Congress. The group numbering over 30 people from Cagayan Valley down to Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao joined the farm tour.
In photo are some of the visitors led by Mercy Parreno (center), the head of the DTI in Rizal province. They are posing with the Mama Sita banana in fruit. At right is Dorecita Delima, assistant regional director of DTI in Mindanao.

Estimating Rice Yield, Bagatsing Way

Manuel S. Bagatsing of Kahariam Organic Farm in Brgy. Calamias, Lipa City, has a practical way of estimating his rice yield. He threshes the grains from one square meter and then weighs them. If the grains weigh 600 grams, he concludes that the yield per hectare (10,000 sq.m.) would be 6,000 kilos or 6 tons.

Bagatsing produces organic rice for seed as well as for commercial rice. He has a 14-hectare organic farm where he also produces a lot of vermicast using horse manure as the main feed for his earthworms.He can be contacted at 0918-854-8668.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Camote Eater: Pat Faylon of PCAARRD

THE previously much-maligned Camote or sweet potato is being recognized as the healthy food today, more healthy than rice. The fellow who would tell you this is no less than PCAARRD  Executive Director Patricio S. Faylon. PCAARRD is Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development, an agency of the Department of Science and Technology.

Dr. Faylon confesses that he eats camote every day instead of rice. He says camote is so easy to cook. He just microwaves it, and in two minutes the root is cooked.

In many instances we also eat camote. We steam the sliced roots half an inch thick. Sometimes we cook it in the Turbo oven. Tastes very good.

Eating more rootcrops is one of the advocacies of the Department of Agriculture today. This could help reduce rice importation. Other rootcrops are gabi, cassava, ubi, tugui, buga, mayatbang, karot and others.

Seedless Fruit Trees In Teresa

Planting materials of seedless fruit trees are now available at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal. These include Seedless Atis, Seedless Duhat, Seedless Balimbing and Seedless Guava. Of course, these are in limited numbers.
Teresa Orchard & Nursery is very accessible. It is along the road, Km 36.6, about 30 meters before the Teresa-Morong boundary, to the right if coming from Antipolo City. Teresa is the town next to Antipolo. For more info, text or call 0917-841-5477.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Two Alugbati Seed Ideas

TOTO BARCELONA of Harbest Agribusiness has two bright ideas about Alugbati, a favorite vegetable of Ilonggos. Plant the seeds and harvest the shoots while they are just a couple of inches long. Stir-fry these with salt to taste or with oyster sauce. He swears this is very delicious and nutritious too.
Another idea that Toto wants to share. Grow your alugbati to full maturity so they will bear fruit. The fruits, he says, are superb for making jam. The jam contains, according to him, a lot of antioxidants.
We have two varieties, the green and purple, in our own vegetable garden. The green variety which came from China produces extra large leaves. It readily bears fruits and the young plants from seed are very vigorous. Of course, Alugbati is easily propagated by means of cuttings.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lightly Salted Banana Chips

We got an email from Mrs. Clara Lapus from California who has a practical suggestion to makers of banana chips. She writes: "I have just tasted the banana chips served with tuna salad in a Cuban breakfast place in Glendale, Los Angeles, California frequented by Pinoys. Instead of sweetened chips, banana was very lightly salted and sliced longitudinally. With all the diabetic scare, it might be good for banana chip makers to consider changing their formula for banana chips."
Mrs. Lapus and Dr. Bartolome Lapus are the owners of Marigold Commodoties which manufactures the ubiquitous Mama Sita sauces and condiments sold worldwide. She adds: "Mama Sita Foundation would like to develop more nurseries for other produce with unfilled demand such as achuete, langka, siling labuyo, early bearing coconuts, sour guava, black pepper, etc." Mama Sita Foundation, by the way, is largely responsible for introducing the Mama Sita banana which is increasingly becoming popular. The testing and development of the banana introduced from Thailand was also supported by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) and former Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr.

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

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.
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