Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Rice Harvester For A Progressive Co-op

JOH DUNGCA and the 
Kubota Rice Harvester.
A new thrust of the Department of Agriculture is the promotion of farm mechanization. It has been distributing farm machines and equipment to cooperatives and farmers’ associations as a major component of the program. Just like this Kubota rice harvester which was given to the Nagkakaisang Magsasaka Agricultural Primary Multi-Purpose Cooperative based in Tabacao, Talavera, Nueva Ecija and headed by Ricardo Buenaventura. Posing with the brand new harvester is Joh Dungca of SL Agritech who visited the facilities of the cooperative recently.

A Super Alokon?

Note some of the flowers that exceed the
length of Agriculture Magazine.
Photo shows the exceptionally long flowers of the indigenous Alokon (Broussonetia luzonica) which is an indigenous tree vegetable. The male flowers are as long as 14 inches, which is much longer than the usual length of the ordinary Alokon. 

The flowers are a favorite ingredient of the Ilocano pinakbet which can be cooked with minimal water together with vegetables like tomato, eggplant, patola, patani, ampalaya fruit and shoots, native radish fruits or rabanos, stringbeans, kadios and bagnet or broiled dalag, plus patis or fish paste to taste. The Alokon imparts a distinct flavor to the pinakbet.

OFW Saved His Dollars To Buy His 18-Hectare Farm

Rolando Acain poses with his palay
stored in his bodega, waiting for better
price. His bodega can store 3,000 cavans.
People who know how to save become economically well-off much faster than those who don’t save at all.  Much more so, if they know how to invest what they save.

One former Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) who knew how to save is 72-year-old Rolando Acain who now grows hybrid rice on 18 hectares in Aliaga, Nueva Ecija. He bought those 18 hectares, a few hectares at a time, with the dollars he earned while working overseas.

Rolando is a chemical engineer who worked for more than 10 years for foreign companies that were engaged in road construction. For six years, he was in Indonesia as materials engineer for an Italian construction company. He saved all his $1,800 monthly salary and spent only his housing and living allowances while abroad with his wife.
For two years he was next stationed in Uganda and then another year in Tanzania, doing the same job but with a higher salary. Just the same, he saved his monthly income for a farming project he had always dreamed of.

His last stop was a five-year stint with an American construction company in India. He also saved his dollar earnings so he could buy more farm land. At last in 2003, he felt it was time to give up working abroad so he can pursue his dream of rice farming in Aliaga, the hometown of his wife, the former Jovita Go.

He quipped that he was born in the little known town of Abutaya, Palawan where there was very little rice production. And so he married someone from the country’s rice granary so he can have all the rice he cared to have.

Today, Rolando is a very happy gentleman farmer who plants nothing but the hybrid rice from SL Agritech during the dry season. The hybrid rice varieties developed by the company headed by Henry Lim Bon Liong are not only high-yielding, they also have superior eating quality. They are considered fancy rice so they command a higher price than the ordinary varieties.

In 2007 Rolando started planting SL-8H, the first commercial hybrid rice developed by SL Agritech. Since then, he has always planted SL-8H or the other hybrids from the same company. On the average, he gets 180 cavans or about 9 tons of grains from one hectare.

One technique he does is to store his harvest in his bodega, waiting for the price to go up when most of the harvest of other farmers have been sold. For this purpose, he has a bodega that can accommodate 3,000 sacks. When the supply of palay is plentiful, the price could be P17 per kilo. At the time of our visit, however, he was selling his palay at P18.50 per kilo. So it pays to wait for the right time to dispose of his harvest.

As a gentleman farmer, Rolando does not have to do the dirty work in the field. He has workers called “Baki” to do the hands-on operations. He has three hand tractors to plow the land. He only supervises the farming, seeing to it that the recommended protocol in growing hybrid rice is followed to the letter. He also does his own research on proper water management, use of sticker in applying pesticide, proper land preparation (the field should be level before planting), and the like.

Rolando has allocated his 18 hectares to different workers or Baki. Some take care of one or two hectares but there are others who are given bigger areas to manage. Just like Nestor Roxas who takes care of 5.5 hectares. Nestor sees to it that the plants under him are fertilized or irrigated at the right time. He sprays pesticide if necessary, and controls the weeds. He also does other chores to ensure a good harvest. In return, he gets a share of the harvest. If they harvest 180 cavans of 50 kilos each, he gets 18 cavans, plus one cavan if it is more than 180 cavans. Last dry season cropping, Nestor got a share of 98 cavans.

During the past wet seasons, Rolando has been planting inbred rice instead of hybrid because no available hybrid rice is suitable for the rainy months. Inbreds, although they yield less, are also profitable to raise. In fact Nestor got a share of 89 cavans from the inbred rice they planted in the last wet season.

Nevertheless, SL Agritech is continuing to develop a hybrid that will perform equally well during the rainy months. In fact, Rolando is trying this season one variety from SL Agritech that is supposed to be suitable for the rainy season. He is trying it in a small area though, just to observe its performance.

Overall, growing hybrid rice is profitable. Rolando said that he spends P50,000 to P52,000 to grow hybrid rice on one hectare. The costs include the seeds (P4,800), land preparation, pulling of seedlings, transplanting, fertilizers, pesticide, irrigation water, harvesting, threshing, drying and hauling. After deducting the palay given as share of the Baki, the net per hectare could still be easily more than P120,000.

Rolando loves to grow green onion and other
vegetables in pots for home consumption.
Rolando Acain (second from left) during a hybrid rice festival
in Talavera, Nueva Ecija. With him are Dr. Frisco Malabanan
SL Agritech chairman Henry Lim Bon Liong, Dr. Santiago R.
Obien and Ricardo Buenaventura, chairman of a cooperative
in Tabacao, Talavera, Nueva Ecija.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Leading Commercial Makopa Variety

Star Ruby fruits ready for serving.
The Star Ruby makopa (Wax Apple) is the leading variety that is commercially produced in Thailand and Vietnam.

The brilliantly colored fruits are usually served during breakfast in upscale hotels in the two countries. The fruit is sweet and crisp.

Fruits are sold by the crate at the huge Talad Thai Market, an hour's drive north of Bangkok.

This variety was introduced in the Philippines several years ago and is proven to perform well under local conditions. However, there are really no big plantations yet in the country.

Marcotted planting materials are available in limited number at the Teresa Orchard and Nursery in Teresa, Rizal. The nursery is along the road, about 30 meters before the boundary of Teresa and Morong. Teresa is the next town to Antipolo City. For more info on planting materials, call or text Rose at 0915-434-4216.

Fancy Rice Made Affordable

In foreground at left is partly eaten Rice Pao
while at right is Doñ Maria Champorado,
both available at very affordable prices.
SL Agritech’s fancy hybrid rice varieties are now made into food products that are easily affordable to mass consumers.

One very delicious and filling new product is the Rice Pao made of either Doña Maria Miponica or Doña Maria Jasponica. Rice Pao is the rice version of the siopao which SL Agritech sells at P25 apiece. Instead of flour, the sticky and aromatic hybrid rice is used for wrapping the adobo or asado and other fillings.

The fancy varieties are also used for making champorado and rice toppings which are now produced commercially at very affordable prices to mass consumers.

Purshade Protects Plants From Too Much Heat Of The Sun

Corn plant sprayed with Purshade.
A liquid formulation that can protect crops from too much heat of the sun was recently showcased in a demo farm put up by Sinochem Philippines at the UP Los Baños campus in Laguna.
The product is called Purshade which has been registered with the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) for use in pineapple, banana and corn. When sprayed on the leaves of the said crops, it forms a film that protects the plants from the harmful effects of excessive ultraviolet and infra-red radiation. Too much radiation can cause scalding in fruits and leaves resulting in poor quality harvests.
Aside from protecting the plants from too much radiation, Purshade also boosts plant growth because it contains calcium that is needed for improved quality of harvests.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Organic Farm & Garden In A Military Camp

MGen. Gregorio Pio Catapang,
MGen. Nicanor Dolojan, Lt. Gen.
Anthony de Jesus Alcantara  and
Dr. Isa Cojuangco Suntay pose
with grafted mango tree that Dr.
Suntay planted.
An organic farm and garden at a military camp in Tarlac City is one project that is worth visiting by people interested in organic agriculture.
This is the Hardin Ng Lunas, a three-hectare organic vegetable garden and orchard situated at the fairways of the AFP Northern Luzon Command at Camp General Servillano Aquino in San Miguel, Tarlac City.
The project features 123 fruit trees, 56 varieties of organic vegetables, medicinal plants as well as a tilapia pond. The medicinal plants can be the source of natural medicine not only for the families of soldiers but for the surrounding communities in general.
Recently, a harvest festival was held that was attended by members of the military, their families, camp employees, and  the general public.
The harvest festival aimed to show to the visitors that organic vegetables could be successfully grown in their home gardens. The vegetables don’t only provide healthy food for those who plant them, they can also become a source of income if they are grown in quantities that are more than what the families need for their own home use.
Such vegetables could be grown in idle backyards, vacant lots and even in recycled containers. The same is true with the medicinal herbs that could provide families with natural medicines from plants that have been proven to be of medicinal value.
The Hardin Ng Lunas is a pet project of Dr. Isa Cojuangco Suntay, chairwoman of Tarlac Heritage Foundation. Herbal medicinal plants used in the project came from the Tarlac College of Agriculture in Camiling.
Organic Upo from the garden
Also collaborating with the Tarlac Heritage Foundation are St. Luke’s Medical Center-Department of Dermatology in Quezon City, East-West Seed Company and B&O Green Corporation.

TILAPIA from the pond.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Roundup Turboplus: More Effective, More Economical Herbicide

Robust young corn plants are weed-free.
An improved version of the old reliable Roundup herbicide was launched by Sinochem Philippines on June 26, 2013 at a demo farm at UP Los Baños in Laguna.
This is the Roundup Turboplus which has been registered with the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) for use in corn, banana, mango, vegetables and other crops.

This new formulation is claimed to be more effective and more economical than ITS other counterparts in the market. One reason is that the active ingredient is in the form of potassium salt rather than IPA salt. As such, it has a higher load of the active glyphosate herbicide material. According to Dennis Miciano, Sinochem marketing manager,  only a small amount (1.3 liters) is needed to spray one hectare of corn field. It is therefore more economical.

At the same time, Turboplus is more stable than other herbicides and is less affected by changing weather conditions. Turboplus also sticks better on the leaves of the target weeds.

Keeping corn fields weed-free is very important to make the corn plants productive. From the very start, the corn plants should be free from weeds so that they have a fresh start. Weeds could rob the plants of the valuable plant nutrients in the soil. The vines and other weeds could even strangle the young corn plants.

Miciano stressed that Turboplus will not harm the corn plants if these are Bt or Roundup Ready (RR) varieties even if they are sprayed with the new formulation. However, when ordinary varieties are grown, only the weeds should be sprayed with Turboplus.

Miciano said that for Roundup Ready corn, over the top spraying can be done at 15 to 25 days after planting (DAP). However, spraying with Turboplus should be directed to the weeds at 40-45 days after planting.

Herbicides are more effective and cheaper in controlling weeds in the field than manual weeding. They are often used to clear grassy land before planting.

In the rolling hills in Sultan Kudarat, for instance, many corn farmers spray the weedy fields with herbicide. When the grasses have dried up, they plant corn without plowing the soil. They just dibble the seeds together with organic fertilizer. That’s what they call zero tillage system of planting which has its own advantages.

For one, zero tillage makes corn farming cheaper because the farmer does not have to plow the field. Another advantage is that soil erosion is minimized.

Miciano stresses that Roundup Turboplus is very easy to apply. It is added to a sprayer with water and sprayed directly to the target weeds. The user, he said, should always follow the instructions on the label. It should be applied at the right rate, and the timing should also be right. Clean water should be used to ensure effective control of the weeds. Wilting, yellowing and drying up of the entire weeds can be seen starting at five days after application.

Big Marketers Want SL Agritech's Premium Rice

SL Agritech's premium rice for export.
From left, Henry Lim Bon Liong, Agri-
tech's chairman and CEO; Leah V. Cruz,
an exporter; Sec. Proceso J. Alcala and
Dante Delima of the DA's rice program.
The first shipment of 20 tons of fancy rice to Dubai from SL Agritech Corporation (SLAC) on  May 6, 2013 has created keen interest from big distributors abroad.

The exported premium rice consisted of Doña Maria Jasponica and Doña Maria Miponica which, according to Henry Lim of SLAC, could be the world's best-tasting rice. The export that was arranged by the Department of Agriculture also included black rice from Cotabato.

The Jasponica and Miponica rice fetched $1,200 per ton which is practically double the price of ordinary rice varieties in the world market.

As a result of the initial shipment to Dubai, big marketers have indicated strong interest in buying SLAC's fancy rice. According to Lim, Carrefour, the French marketer in many countries, has offered to buy 100 tons every month. That's five container loads of 20 tons each. A similar offer was also received by Lim from another company from Hong Kong.

While the Philippines is still importing rice, albeit much less than during the previous administration, the strategy of the Department of Agriculture is to export premium rice that fetches practically double the cost of ordinary rice in the world market. 

Doña Maria Miponica is  soft and sticky. It is excellent
for sushi, porridge and other preparations. It can be used
for making Rice Pao, the rice-based counterpart of Siopao.

Friday, June 28, 2013

SM Harvest Festival In Negros

The graduates at the Harvest Festival
Graduates of SM Foundation's "Kabalikat Sa Kabuhayan Farmers' Training Program" in Negros Occidental show their produce at the Harvest Festival held in Lux Mundi Farm School, Hacienda Binitin in Brgy. Blumentritt, Murcia, Negros Occidental. This was a day before the graduation program at the SM City Bacolod.
These are some of the harvests of the trainees.
Among the farmers who participated in the three-month training are beneficiaries of the PPP program of the government. When the training was launched, local government officials attended and shared their vision for Murcia as a self-sufficient municipality with agricultural development.

Simultaneous with the dual-tech agricultural training provided by Harbest Agribusiness Corporation, the farmers were also provided with entrepreneurial skills training by the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The KSK Farmers' Training Program was first launched in 2007 in Bacolod City. Thousands of farmers have been trained under the program and are now successful vegetable growers, earning handsome income from their ventures.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Plant Breeders Missing On This?

There’s an interesting review of an upcoming book that that was e-mailed to us recently. The big point is that most plant breeders, like vegetable breeders, are developing varieties and hybrids that are mostly for traits like high-yielding, resistant to pests and diseases, tolerant to stresses like drought and too much water, longer shelf life, better transportability and the like.
What is missing, the book seems to emphasize is that the plant breeders have not been targeting new varieties that provide the right nutrients for the consumers’ good health.

For instance, there are certain old varieties that are believed to contain more antioxidants like plants with purple fruits, leaves and grains.
True, there is this golden rice that is under field trials in the Philippines but which has been taking a very long time to be approved. What may be less controversial are conventionally-bred purple corn that are high-yielding and with other good traits.

What immediately came to our mind are high-yielding colored rice to take the place of old colored varieties that have excellent eating quality but which are very low-yielding. For instance, if there is a hybrid purple rice or red rice that is as high-yielding as the SL-8H, that will greatly boost the program of Sec. Proceso Alcala to export fancy rice to the Middle East and other foreign buyers.

There are also big opportunities to produce more colored corn – either red, purple or black which are said to contain more antioxidants than the white and yellow varieties.

Right now, what is becoming popular, at least in Rizal, is the white waxy corn being distributed by East-West Seed Company. This tastes very good and is now the favorite of Rizal farmers who are producing green corn for boiling.

Maybe, if there is a purple variety that is as good-tasting and higher-yielding, the farmers and the consuming public will like it also. And it will be for their own good health.

Honduras Banana: Favorite of Teresa Visitors

Health Secretary Enrique Ona and
the Honduras banana with a big
developing bunch with 20 hands
at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery.
The Honduras Banana has become a favorite for visitors to Teresa Orchard & Nursery to take their picture with. Just like Health Secretary Enrique Ona who visited the nursery last Sunday, June 23, 2013.

Visitors are truly fascinated by the big developing bunch which at last count has 20 hands, each hand averaging 20 fingers.

The variety is called FHIA 18 which means it was developed by the Fundacion Hondureño de Investigacion Agricola. It was brought to the Philippines by Bioversity International and it has been proven to grow well under local conditions.

It develops a big pseudostem which enables it to carry a heavy bunch.

The fruits are not only good for eating as fresh ripe fruit. The mature green fruits are said to be excellent for making banana chips.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Gorgeous Spanish Moss In Dorie Bernabe's Garden

MARIPAZ GODINEZ delights in posing 
below the gorgeous Tillandsia usneoides 
alias Spanish Moss, also known as "Buhok
ni Eva" in the Philippines. 
This is in the garden of Dorie S. Bernabe in Pansol, Calamba City. Ms. Bernabe is the president
of the Philippine Horticultural Society who has a most beautiful garden full of ferns, bromeliads, cacti, bonsai, philodendrons, hoyas and many many others. 

Maripaz is a member of the PHS who joined other members in visiting Dorie's garden and the Costales organic farm in Majayay, Laguna last June 20, 2013.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Horti Group Visits Costales Farm

Josie Costales and Maripaz Godinez posing
with upright tubular planter with beautifully
growing lettuce. Atop is a green onion to
repel insects that might damage the lettuce.
The Costales Nature Farms in Majayjay, Laguna is becoming a favorite destination of visitors who are interested in organic farming. This is the farm that Ronald Costales and his wife Josie started in 2005, after the former gave up his high-paying job as vice president of a big IT company in Makati.
The latest to visit the place are the members of the Philippine Horticulture Society, headed by Dorie S. Bernabe, whom we joined last June 20. That was our fifth time to visit the farm and in every visit there is always something new to see.

The white tubular plastic grow bags are the latest innovation on the farm. These are either installed vertically or horizontally and planted to shallow-rooted leafy greens like lettuce, pechay, chives, green onion and the like.

The unique technique of growing leafy veggies excited many of the visiting members of the horticultural society. They intimated they were eager to adopt  the same very doable technology in their own homes.

How is that done? The plastic grow bag or tube which measures about five inches in diameter and four feet long is available from a Makati-based company and is said to last for about three years. Ronald fills the  tube with a combination of equal parts of organic fertilizer (vermicompost) and carbonized rice hull. If it is a standing planter, it is supported by a bamboo pole planted in the ground. The tubular planter is simply tied to the bamboo support.

Planting holes are made all around the tubular planter from bottom up. An “X” is incised on the desired spot for planting the seedling. At the top of the tube, Ronald plants Pearl onion or any green onion variety. This is supposed to repel the insects that could damage the leafy greens. So far, we did not observe any insect damage on the plants that are growing very well. Watering the standing planter is very simple. It is done by pouring the water at the top of the tube.

Ronald has another way of using the tubular grow bag. He installs a couple of bamboo poles above the ground where the filled grow bags are laid. Then vegetable seedlings are planted. In less than a month, the lettuce and other veggies are usually ready for harvest.

The novel planters are found in many spots at the Costales farm. They are all along the pathways and even under fruiting trellised ampalaya. The technique is perfectly right for adoption by urban gardeners who have limited space where they live. The advantage is that their harvest would be very fresh and the owners would be sure that they are very safe to eat.

Aside from the lecture on the tubular planters, Ronald explained to the visitors many other things they are doing to produce healthy organic food. They produce organic eggs laid by hens that are free-range in an enclosed portion of the property. The chickens are given concentrate feed without antibiotics. The fowls also eat the grass and insects they find on the range.

Ronald said they grow a lot of rabbits, too, because their manure is said to be very rich in nutrients, much richer than the manure of other livestock. The rabbit manure is fed to the earthworms that produce the vermicompost which they use in growing their plants.

The high-value crops that are grown, aside from several varieties of lettuce, include cherry tomato, French beans, Japanese cucumber, sweet corn, eggplant, culinary herbs. These are either grown in greenhouses (there are 18) or in the open. They also have fruit trees like rambutan, Satsuma orange, pummelo and lanzones. In between the fruit trees are beds of either vegetables or culinary herbs for maximum use of space.

Ronald said that visitors don’t only go to their farm for a tour. Many also go there to attend a three-day seminar on integrated organic farming. At the time of our visit, there were 17 seminar attendees  coming from different places.

The seminar attendees as well as the farm tourists also enjoy the snacks and meals that are served. All the ingredients are organic. A favorite beverage that is served is a herbal tea of tarragon and mint. Another popular drink is cold Japanese cucumber juice.

In sum, the visitors are very happy for the farming and gardening ideas that they see at the Costales farm. And they are likewise satisfied with the food and drinks served. 

Dr. Romeo Gutierrez, in front, with upright
tubular planters with beautifully growing lettuce.
Members of the Philippine Horticulture Society
listen to a briefing on vermi-composting.
Norma Villanueva of the PHSI reaching for fruits
of Satsuma orange. Note the beds of herbs and
vegetables in between fruit trees.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Malaysian Hybrid Durian In Teresa

The Malaysian Hybrid Durian that is growing at the Teresa Orchard & Nursery in Teresa, Rizal is in fruit.

The fruits are smaller than most varieties grown in the Philippines, each weighing from 1.5 to 2 kilos. While the fruits are small, they are very fleshy. The golden yellow flesh is sweet with a mealy consistency.

The variety is now being propagated at the Teresa nursery. About 200 grafted seedlings are now available.

Teresa Orchard & Nursery is located along the road, about 30 meters before the Teresa-Morong boundary. Teresa is the next town to Antipolo. For more info, text 0917-841-5477 or Rose at 0915-434-4216.
An opened fruit of the Malaysian Hybrid Durian.
The fruit is small but fleshy with a mealy consistency.

Monday, June 17, 2013

What's New At Costales Farm

Growing bags installed vertically on bamboo poles for
growing veggies above the ground.
Dorie S. Bernabe, PHSI president, posing
with a vertical planting tube planted with
lettuce all around the sides, and Pearl onion
planted at the very top portion.
Last June 16 we visited for the 4th time the Costales Nature Farms in Majayjay, Laguna. And every time we visit there is always something new to see.

For instance, as we approached the entrance, we were greeted by a lot of white tubular planters or grow bags that are supported by  bamboo poles installed in the ground.

Maricel Fio who received us explained that they are vertical planters for shallow-rooted leafy vegetables such as lettuce, pechay, mustard, etc. The leafy veggies are planted in holes all around the sides of the standing planter from the bottom up. At the topmost part is Pearl onion which is claimed to drive away insects that could damage the leafy greens.

As you go inside the farm, you will see the white planting tubes all along the pathways. You will even find them under the ampalaya trellis which shows how to fully utilize one space.
Then we also saw layers of vertical planters laid on top of two bamboo poles above the ground. They are also planted with either chives or lettuce.

By the way, members of the Philippine Horticultural Society headed by Dorie S. Bernabe will be visiting the place on June 20.

Vertical tube planters under the trellised ampalaya.

Source of Affordable Beautiful Ornamentals

CHERRYLYN BAGARIS with Daeng Amphorn Philodendron
BOBBY BAGARIS and the bestselling
New Orange Philodendron.
There’s a remarkable nursery up in the mountains of Lucban, Quezon, where one can find ornamental plants of the highest quality but which only a few plant traders know. The plants are not only remarkable for their high quality, they are also remarkable for their very affordable price.

 For instance, bromeliads like Neoregelia Perfecta in bloom are priced at only P150. In Manila weekend markets and plant shops, the same could be selling double that price.

Another remarkable thing about the ornamental farm is that the fellow who is running it is not a horticulturist but one who learned the fine points of ornamental plant propagation through self-study and trial and error. Now, he has mastered a fast way of multiplying the varieties they are producing in large numbers.

The ornamental plant nursery is the May-it Flower Farm in Brgy. May-it, Lucban town. The fellow who is running it, together with his wife Cherrylyn, is Bobby Bagaris, 39, who finished a course in marine engineering. He chose not to pursue the profession he studied in college and instead opted to work for his American brother-in-law who is married to his sister Vivian. First, he served as his brother-in-law’s driver and eventually manager of the nursery put up by his sister’s husband, Ralph William Miller.

May-it Flower Farm specializes in just a few varieties that are particularly suited to the growing conditions in Lucban which has a milder climate than most other parts of the country.

The main ornamental plants they grow include a number of philodendron varieties of the self-heading type (not the climbing type that needs a stake to grow on). They are also growing a lot of flowering anthuriums which are mostly small but which are sold at very affordable prices.

Then there are a few varieties of bromeliads, particularly Neoregelias. Also grown in fewer numbers is a variety of dwarf dieffenbachia imported from Thailand which is produced as indoor décor.

At first glance, the knowledgeable visitor would say that the plants are grown from tissue-cultured plantlets. But no, they are grown from suckers  of mother plants that have been topcut.

Many gardeners will usually topcut their philodendron when they are already full grown. In the case of Bobby, he topcuts the three-month-old plants which are still very small. He has observed that the young mother plants will usually produce three or more suckers. He separates the young suckers and grows them in plastic trays. After they have grown bigger, they are transferred to a bigger hard plastic pot, eventually to be transferred to a pot with a mouth of about a foot in diameter. Three or four months later, they are already ready for sale to traders and plant shop owners who buy them in big numbers (sometimes by the truckload). Many of the plants find their way to the weekend markets and plant shops in Metro Manila.

Bobby says that his system of propagation is very fast. For instance, the 1,000 young New Orange philodendrons they imported from Thailand became more than 10,000 in less than a year. That’s because the first batch of suckers are ready for topcutting in just a few months, and also the original mother plants continue to produce new suckers.

The same technique is applied to the flowering anthuriums being propagated in large numbers. The mother plants were sourced as tissue-cultured plants from Holland. Again, the young plants are being topcut for multiplication.

Each batch of mother plants is usually a thousand seedlings. With that number, it is quite fast to attain a big number of propagations.

The philodendron varieties that they are producing by the thousands include New Orange, Daeng Amphorn, Cherry Red, Black Cardinal, Green Congo, Red Congo, Moonlight, Sunlight (tricolor) and Red Imperial.

The current bestseller, according to Bobby, is New Orange at P210 each. Moonlight is also catching up. All the others are also selling well. There are times when they have to sell the medium size at P100 each because the bigger stocks have run out.

In the case of flowering anthuriums, the bigger ones with flowers sell at P100 but there are smaller sizes with flowers that may sell for just P50. The varieties include Small Talk Red, Small Talk Salmon, Small Talk Pink, White Queen, Robin J and Red King.

Of course, one very good reason why May-it Flower Farm can produce high quality ornamentals is because the plants are grown under a high-tech greenhouse put up by Bobby’s American brother-in-law whose business in the US was installing watering and climate control systems in greenhouses. At May-it, watering is by automatic sprinkler system. Also automated is the application of fertilizer.

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