Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Klasika Waxy White Corn

ERNESTO PASCUAL, one of the Farmer Heroes honored by East-West Seed, enjoys a big ear of Klasika waxy corn. This is a white variety that is very nice to eat as boiled corn because its kernels have that desirable waxy consistency.

The ears are big so that it has a high yield. Klasika is one variety that can be produced commercially for the green corn market. A lot of boiled ears were served to visitors during the celebration of East-West's 30th anniversary last December 12, 2012.

On Brown Rice: Did You Know?

"If all Filipinos would eat brown rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner just once a month (36 meals a year), our rice importation would shrink by an average of 50,000 metric tons per year, valued at US20.32 million (or P812.81 million) savings yearly."

This is from a publication of Philippine Rice Research Institute.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Too Much Money Can Be Dangerous, Too!

In farming, too much money can be dangerous, too. We just came from a lunch date with a friend who is successful in commercially producing organic fertilizer. He also has his own farm where he produces hot pepper, black pepper, and a number of other crops and farm animals.

He told us about the story of a young former congressman who planted six hectares to hot chili after learning that the hot pepper sells for as much as P400 to P500 per kilo. (Actually, though, the price could even escalate to more than a thousand pesos per kilo when supply is very scarce.)

Because the ex-congressman had a lot of money, he did not mind spending big sums of money in preparing the land, money to buy the seeds and the manpower to take care of the plants, the fertilizers and pesticides. To the misfortune of the politician, when he was already harvesting, the going price was only P15 per kilo, according to our informant.  At that price, it was a losing proposition. A big losing proposition.

When the price did not improve after quite sometime, the congressman was so frustrated. He just  abandoned the project  because if he would continue to spend for the workers and other inputs, he surmised he would be incurring more losses, big losses.

THE LESSONS HERE - Just because you have a lot of money, don't just jump into an agribusiness you have  heard to be profitable. Make a careful study of the market, the nature of the demand for the crop you choose to produce. And it is wise to start more modestly, especially if one is new in the business. Six hectares for a hot chili is too big for a neophyte hot chili farmer, especially if he has no  arrangement with a sure buyer. We think starting with a hectare would be more prudent. From there he could expand  if his experience will warrant.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Taiwan Agritour Planned

We got word from Toto Barcelona of Harbest Agribusiness that he is planning to organize an Agritourism Trip to Taiwan in 2013. He and his family are now vacationing in Taiwan but will be back on January 4 in time for a dinner with Dr. William Dar, director general of  the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

What's good when Toto leads the Agritourism Trip is that he has close contacts with the interesting farm tour destinations. He stayed in Taiwan for a long time and he speaks the language. Moreover, he is the distributor of Known-You Seed from Taiwan. For sure, the facilities of Known-You will be part of the itinerary.

The date is not yet fixed but for sure you will know about developments through this blog. 

Papaya That Tastes Like Mango

One seed company in Thailand has reportedly developed a papaya hybrid that tastes like mango. The fruit is small, usually about a kilo or less. The company is said to be reluctant to commercialize the hybrid because the flesh is yellow. Why? Well the market in Thailand prefers red-fleshed papaya.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Dwarf Flowering Ornamentals

IN PHOTO is a showcase of dwarf flowering ornamentals at the demo farm of East-West Seed Company in San Rafael, Bulacan.

These plants are in full bloom even if their stems are just a couple of inches above the ground. They are good for use as bedding plants in landscaping projects. Or they could  be grown as potted flowering plants for sale in the market.

The plants include Celosia, Zinnia, Vinca and Marigold. Their flowers come in different colors. The Marigold, for one. could be planted in between vegetable crops to repel insects that could damage the vegetables.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tissue-Cultured Mama Sita Banana

A VERY limited number of tissue-cultured Mama Sita banana is now available at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal. We are making this announcement because so many have previously asked if the seedlings are now available. They are, but just about 150 pieces.

Mama Sita banana has now become a favorite. It does not grow very tall and has a huge pseudostem so it does not topple down easily. It produces big bunch of fruit which is very sweet when ripe.

Those interested may call Rose at 0915-434-4216.

Marigold Drives Away The Insects

POTTED MARIGOLD in bloom are placed at the base of leguminous vegetables at the demo farm of the East-West Seed Company in San Rafael, Bulacan.

The marigold is claimed to drive away the insects that could damage the vegetables.

By the way, East-West is introducing marigold varieties that are dwarf. These make ground cover in landscaping projects. They could be useful as potted flowering plants for sale in the market.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tarragon Makes Refreshing Tea

A very healthy Tarragon
IN PHOTO is a very healthy Tarragon grown in a recycled car tire filled with vermicompost. It is grown in the Permaculture Farming showcase at the East-West Seed Company in San Rafael, Bulacan.

Many people find it difficult to grow healthy and robust Tarragon. But the secret at East-West is the use of organic growing medium

The Permaculture Farming team headed by Robert Acosta produces vermicompost in cemented bins covered with GI sheet.

The worms are fed with vegetable trimmings, kitchen waste from the company's canteen and other biomass available at East-West.

By the way, Tarragon makes a very refreshing tea. Take about ten leaves, place them in a cup of boiling water, and presto! You have a tea you won't easily forget.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Striped Snake Gourd

The Snake Gourd usually seen in the Philippines has pure white fruits. However, the variety showcased at the demo farm of East-West Seed during its 30th anniversary celebration has striped fruits..

Snake Gourd is not yet popularly consumed in the Philippines but it is well liked in Thailand.

The striped fruits of the Snake Gourd are very attractive.

Maybe, Filipinos should learn from Thailand how to prepare Snake Gourd dishes.

Lettuce and Sweet Corn Together

Here's one doable idea you can adopt in your farm or garden. You can grow your favorite sweet corn together with your favorite leafy green - lettuce.

Photo shows just how it is done at the Permaculture Farming showcase at the headquarters of East-West Seed Company in San Rafael, Bulacan.

The sweet corn is planted at one seed per hill and distanced about 1.5 feet apart. In between the hills are lettuce which as are very healthy and robust as can be seen in the picture.

The planting bed is mulched to prevent weed growth and to conserve moisture at the same time. During rainy days, the mulch prevents waterlogging.

No chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizers are used so the leafy greens are very safe to eat. To see for yourself, better visit the East-West headquarters one of these days.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ampalaya Grown In Jute Sacks

In photo are ampalaya plants (bitter gourd) growing in medium size jute sacks filled with vermicompost as growing medium.

The plants are very fruitful. Note the jute sacks perched on benches on both sides of the trellis.

This is one of attention-getters at the Permaculture Farming showcase at the East-West Seed Company headquarters in  San Rafael, Bulacan.

The plants are organically grown. No chemical pesticides and fertilizers. There's no fruitfly damage on the fruits.

Purple Corn For Good Health

Purple Corn with kernels that are all purple.
The Purple Corn was one of the varieties showcased at the demo farm during the 30th anniversary celebration of East-West Seed Company in San Rafael, Bulacan.

The Purple Corn is claimed to be rich in anthocyanin which may help stabilize and protect capillaries and blood vessels from damage by free radicals. 

Anthocyanin has been shown to promote collagen formation (which is good for our skin) and may improve blood circulation.

Aside from the variety with purely purple kernels, there is also what is popularly called Bicolor.The kernels are a combination of purple and yellow, or purple and white.

As boiled corn, the Purple and Bicolor are nice to eat because they are waxy.

Ric Reyes with Bicolor corn.

Friday, December 14, 2012

East-West Founders Persevered and Won

Simon N. Groot at the 30th anniversary
of East-West Seed.
Michelle Robel, E-W plant pathologist,
poses with fruits of Emperor Sweet Pepper
which is now making farmers rich.
Ampalaya is a major interest of East-West plant breeders. They
have developed several hybrids which are big money makers
for a lot of farmers. These include Jade, Galaxy,
Galactica and Bonito.
The great success that the East-West Seed is enjoying today is the result of dogged perseverance and the strong belief that a good and reliable seed could have more lasting impact on our farmers than the billions of aid money from well-meaning donor nations and NGOs.

That could be very true because the impact of a good seed is directly felt not only by the small but also the big-time farmers. Countless farmers are continuing to benefit year after year from not just one seed but a series of improved seeds that the company’s researchers are churning out every year.

While East-West is considered the leading vegetable seed company in the Philippines today, achieving success was far from easy. The early years, starting 1982 when it was established by Simon N. Groot of the Netherlands and Benito M. Domingo of the Philippines, were particularly rough years.

Mr. Groot recalls during talks over lunch at the company’s 30th anniversary that it took them 10 years to reach the first $1-million mark in sales. After their first building was put up, they were already running out of money so that they had to buy second hand furniture for their offices. Up to this day, the P200-second hand table that Mr. Groot used in those difficult years is still kept at the East-West headquarters in San Rafael.

After achieving the $1 million annual sale, however, the sailing had become more smooth. Sister companies have since been established in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, India and China.

Promoting the “pinakbet” type of vegetables was a smart tack that East-West took. That’s because in “pinakbet” many kinds of vegetables are cooked together in one dish. In the authentic Ilocano pinakbet, as many as 15 or even more vegetables, including minor ones, are cooked together.

These include ampalaya fruit and shoot, eggplant, tomato, stringbeans, patani, radish fruits, alokon, paayap, sweet pepper, finger pepper, malunggay fruits, kadios seeds, gabi tuber, patola, okra, katuray flowers and bataw. Cooked with “bagnet” or broiled “dalag”, and just enough tomato sauce and water, the concoction could make a superb one-dish meal.

Mr. Groot said, they thought of promoting the pinakbet type vegetables because at that time, it was the favorite dish of former President Marcos. He has tried to promote the same dish in Indonesia but has not succeeded so far.

The production of superior varieties is just one part of the cycle. What is equally important is the dissemination of the varieties and the production techniques that go with the seeds.

The company has been successful along this line. It has put up demo farms in various places, has conducted workshops and seminars, conducted what it calls road shows and many more.

One project that has become successful is the Tanim Para Sa Kinabukasan project or TSK whereby the technicians of the company collaborate with school officials to put up a vegetable garden showcase right on the school campus. Here, the students participate in putting up the garden, in sowing the seeds, transplanting them and then caring for them up to maturity. At the end of the cycle, a harvest festival is held. Parents of the children and other target groups are also invited to see the  beautiful vegetables taken care of by the students and their mentors alike.

So successful has the TSK program become that the Oh My Gulay project started by Sen. Edgardo Angara has been hitched to the TSK. Now, to cover more schools, the gardening-in-charge in interested educational institutions are sent to the East-West for training.

East-West Seed is not only focused on the production of seed varieties. It is also focused on other means of improving productivity. One example of late is the promotion of grafted ampalaya planting materials. This technique is increasing the productive life of the crop by an additional 10 harvests. Then it is promoting what is called permaculture farming, which we will delve into in another write up.

At the 30th anniversary celebration of East-West last December 12, 30 outstanding vegetable farmers were honored for their exemplary achievements. Some of them have risen from poverty to become multi-millionaires because of the technologies they have adopted from East-West and other sources.
Simon Groot and Irene Sion reminisce the old days at
East-West. Here she is showing Mr. Groot the improvised
seed catalog which she used when selling seeds. Aside from
plant breeding duties, she also sold seeds of the company.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sweet Corn And Pipinito Together

Photo shows Dorie S. Bernabe, president of the Cactus and Succulent Society of the Philippines, holding a fruit of the Pipinito cucumber intercropped with sweet corn at the Permaculture farming showcase at the East-West Seed Company in San Rafael, Bulacan.

Planting sweet corn and the mini cucumber together is a practical idea that could be adopted by hobbyists and commercial planters alike. Usually, sweet corn is harvested 65 to 75 days after planting, depending on the variety.

On the other hand, the mini cucumber starts fruiting 35 days after planting. The farmer or gardener, therefore, can start harvesting from his farm or garden in just five weeks from planting.

It is important that the sweet corn is planted one plant per hill and should be spaced about two feet apart. This will let sunlight penetrate between the plants for the good of the two crops.

Dorie Bernabe was one of the visitors at the EAst-West Seed on December 12 when the company observed its 30th anniversary.

Friday, December 7, 2012

AGRICULTURE Magazine Cited

The Manila Bulletin's AGRICULTURE Magazine, edited by your blogger Zac B. Sarian, was cited by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) during the Media Noche affair tendered by the Council on December 6, 2012.

The magazine was given the Certificate of Recognition "for its outstanding contribution to technology, information, and knowledge diffusion through active and enthusiastic accommodation and publication of numerous valuable agricultural articles from the Council. The magazine's responsible disposition has enabled PCAARRD to reach out to its beneficiaries in the agriculture, aquatic and natural resources sectors, free from the worries of costly media leverage, thereby helping the Council in empowering our farmers and other agricultural beneficiaries in the countryside."

Dr. Patricio Faylon, PCAARD Executive Director, signed the certificate of recognition at the Media Noche held at the Shangrila Restaurant in Quezon City.

Agriculture Magazine is the most widely circulated magazine of its kind in the Philippines. It is available in bookstores and the nationwide distribution network of the Manila Bulletin.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

ZAC Invited to East-West Field Day in Thailand

EAST-WEST SEED INTERNATIONAL has invited your blogger, Zac B. Sarian, to cover the company's Field Day on February 4, 2013 at the Simon Groot Research Center in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The Field Day will showcase the company's new varieties, along with successful varieties from recent years. The Field Day's theme is "Our Ever-Growing World of Vegetables." On display will be over 200 varieties - mostly popular outdoor varieties, but will also include some interesting indoor varieties. More than 25 varieties will be shown to the world for the very first time.

The invitation was signed by Joost Pekelharing, president of East-West Seed Group, and Mary Ann Sayoc, general manager of East-West Seed Philippines.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Preparing For His Retirement

Teodulo Pili with the Duku and Longkong
lanzones that he bought recently from
the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa,
TEODULO PILI, 62, who teaches at the Don Servillano Platon Memorial High School  in Tinambac, Camarines Sur, has been preparing for his retirement.

He is developing a three-hectare farm in his hometown by planting exotic fruit trees. A few years back, he planted latexless jackfruit from the Teresa Orchard & Nursery which has been bearing excellent fruit.

This time, he is adding Duku and Longkong lanzones to his farm. He recently bought his planting materials at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal.

People like Teodulo are admirable because they know how to prepare for their retirement. Upon their retirement, they will already have fruiting trees that could give them some income.

If one is enterprising, he can buy superior mother trees which he can eventually propagate for sale to other fruit tree enthusiasts.

Year-Round Strawberry Under Greenhouse

Bethzaida Bustamante showing fruits of Festival.
FRANCIS CHING of Cada, Mankayan, Benguet, produces strawberries under greenhouse year-round.

He plants the Festival variety imported from the United States which is claimed to be highly suitable for planting in higher elevations of at least 1,000 meters above sea level.

Fruits of Festival strawberry are big, juicy and sweet. On top of that, they have better shipping quality than the Sweet Charlie that is usually grown in La Trinidad.

His greenhouses for growing strawberry cover 7,000 square meters. His strawberries are organically grown so that they command a high price, especially during the off-season, which could P300 to P400 per kilo.

Photo shows Bethzaida Bustamante of the Department of Agriculture during a visit to Ching's farm recently.

The General's Prolific Longkong Tree

This prolific 8-year-old longkong tree is one of  150 trees belonging to Gen. Recaredo Sarmiento II, former chief of the Philippine National Police.

He is growing his exotic fruit trees in the family farm resort, Ouans Worth Farm, in Lucena City.

His trees have been  bearing fruits twice a year, something he attributes to his application of a lot of organic manure as well as Alfonso G. Puyat's formulations of growth enhancers (Power Grower Combo and Heavy Weight Harvest). A total of 60 out of the 150 trees are heavy with fruit and will be harvestable in early January this coming year.

Photo shows Gen. Sarmiento's grandchildren enjoying posing with the ripening fruits that were harvested last June. By early September, the trees bore flowers again and these will be harvestable early next year.

The Sarmiento grandchildren and prolific longkong tree.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Organic Romaine Lettuce Under Greenhouse

Maritess Madera shows newly harvested
organic Romaine lettuce from Francis

Ching's Farm in Benguet. (Melpha Abello
MARITESS MADERA of the Department of Agriculture shows newly harvested organic Romaine lettuce produced under greenhouse at the three-hectare farm of Francis Ching in Cada, Mankayan, Benguet, during a recent visit.

Ching harvests five tons of lettuce a week which he sells to high-end markets in Manila through his partners like Dole-Asia, Pureharvest Food Processing and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

By using greenhouses, Ching successfully produces high-value vegetables and strawberries year-round without using chemical pesticides.

Ching was conferred the 2011 Gawad Saka award for high-value commercial crops.

Bright Prospects In Sugar Industry

There are a number of developments that point to a rosy future for the local sugar industry. These were cited by a top executive of a leading company engaged in the sugar industry.
He is Archimedes B. Amarra, vice president of Roxas Holdings, Inc. for marketing, trading, corporate planning and corporate strategy. He also served as a board member of the Sugar Regulatory Administration, and in other capacities in a number of foundations or agencies involved in the sugar industry.
One recent significant development was the ability of the country to diversify the foreign market for Philippine sugar. Another was the effective curtailment of smuggled or unauthorized entry of sugar from outside sources.

Amarra cited that in crop year 2010/11 sugar production reached 2.4 million tons which was a significant increase from the previous year’s production of 1.97 million metric tons. To prevent the undue drop in price for locally produced sugar, the SRA was aggressive enough to look for markets abroad. SRA was able to negotiate with the US for additional purchases. The Philippines originally had an allocation of 138,000 tons for 2011-2012, but the shipment from Sept. 3, 2011 to July 5, 2012 had increased to 163,900 tons.

In addition to the increased shipment to the US, the SRA’s marketing efforts resulted in the shipment of 361,663 tons (D sugar) to Japan, China and Indonesia in the same period.

Amarra said that SRA’s efforts were an effective market diversification move to meet a potentially problematic overflow of production carryover from the previous year.

The Bureau of Customs’ efforts in curbing sugar smuggling also contributed to the stabilized price range for domestic raw sugar (millgate) in the vicinity of P1,300 per Lkg (50-kg sugar) in the first half of crop year 2011/12.  Official data from Thailand reported that the volume of sugar exported to the Philippines was about 126,829 metric tons for the period of November 2010 to October 2011 while the reports from the SRA indicated that the agency allowed the importation of 117,000 metric tons for the same period. This is a very significant reduction from previous estimates of 200,000 to 300,000 tons of illegal or unauthorized entry of sugar each year.

Amarra cites one more indication pointing to the bright prospects of the sugar industry. This is the positive market response to the relisting of Victorias Milling Company at the Philippine Stock Exchange, which means that the sugar industry is getting a serious second look from the business sector. He cites reports in media that the Metro Pacific group of Manuel V. Pangilinan is keen in getting into the sugar business.

Amarra considers as the foremost challenge to the sugar industry the decelerating rate of AFTA tariff on sugar imports from 38% in 2011 to 18 percent in January 2013, down to 10% in January 2014 and then 5% in January 2015.

He is optimistic, however, that the local sugarcane farmers can meet the challenge. He said that since 2010, the industry embarked on the implementation of the master plan for the sugar industry in conjunction with the SRA Road Map. The twin objectives of cost competitiveness and profitability were set. A cost of US 14 cents per pound (or about P750 per LKg was set as the bottom line. At this level, producing sugar in the country should provide sufficient returns to both farm and industrial sectors despite competition from the expected imports come 2015.

The targets, Mr. Amarra says, are an acknowledgment that fluctuating world prices (and therefore import prices) cannot be accurately forcasted nor influenced by the local industry. As of the middle of 2012, nine sugarcane producing areas or districts have reported average costs of production at about or below the mark mentioned above. Many more areas, however, need to shape and are forecasted to catch up with the implementation of more projects to support efforts at the farms and the factories.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Honeybees In Mario Rabang's Farm

Flor Labon, the bee expert with veil, showing
to the visitors the frame being filled with
 honey by the bees. The bees don't only 
produce honey, they also pollinate the 
mangoes. Second from right is Mario Rabang.
That's me, Zac B. Sarian,showing a
frame filled with honey. Flor Labon
later demonstrated how to extract
the honey with an extractor.
The filled frames are being readied for extraction.
At left is Mario Rabang while at right is Tony Rola.
Mario Rabang, a Manila businessman and his better half, Dr. Perla Rabang, have included bee culture in their farm in the rolling hills of Abucay, Bataan.

The farm which covers more than 30 hectares is in the process of development although there are already mango trees of fruiting age, guyabano, papayas, cacao, pummelo and many other crops. Mushroom culture is also being included as a special project of Dr. Rabang, a practicing dentist in Manila.

The farm was the venue of the monthly meeting last December 2 of the members of the Aani Mango Industry Network (AMIN) Foundation headed by Tony S. Rola. Aside from the talk on mango technologies, a honeybee expert from Baguio, Florida Labon, was invited to demonstrate how to take care of the bees as well as how to extract the honey from the honeycomb. 

Pol Rubia, on the other hand, conducted a demonstration on mushroom culture.

The Rabangs prepared an overflow of food that included two native lechon, seafoods like crabs, shrimps, seabass, tilapia and other goodies.
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