Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mango R&D featured in forum

It’s the season for this delectable fruit, touted as the sweetest in the world. Aside from being sweet, it is best known for its yellow-orange and succulent flesh, which is a temptation that is too hard to resist even among diabetics. This is the Philippine mango.
With a domestic production worth P41.6 billion, the mangoes that we savor in abundance in summer support about 2.5 million farmers. Also, its gross value added contribution to agriculture is P12.5 billion with exports valued at US$31 million for its fresh fruits and US$29.7 million for its processed products.
Filipinos are so much into mango (both as consumer and producer) that the country ranked as the 7th and 6th biggest producer and exporter, respectively, in the world.
The science behind
Science and technology plays a big role in the success of the mango industry. This was the key message of Bureau of Plant Industry-National Mango Research and Development Center (BPI-NMRDC) OIC Chief Yondre J. Yonder in his presentation for the mango techno forum held during the recently concluded “19th Manggahan Festival”.
In the forum, sponsored by the Philippine Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) and its regional partner, the Western Visayas Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium, Yonder enumerated some of the research and development (R&D) works on mango done by government institutions.
“A protocol for extended hot water dip treatment (EHWD) was already established”, Yonder started. He explained that EHWD is an accepted method used to disinfest mango fruits against fruit flies. The treatment made it possible for the country to export the fruit to China.
Yonder also mentioned that the national survey on mango seed and pulp weevils was conducted. Results of the survey showed the absence of mango seed weevil and mango pulp weevil (MPW) except in Palawan where there is still the incidence of MPW.
He also reported that a system for planting of tissue-cultured plantlets to soil media was developed along with a protocol for the regeneration of plantlets.
“To maintain the mangoes’ quality, irradiation protocol on postharvest was also established”, he continued. Irradiation is an alternative to vapor heat treatment for disinfecting mango seed and pulp weevil. The technology is rapid, safe, and convenient though costly.
Methods to determine maturity of mango fruits were established. The code of Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) was also developed.
Yonder added that low bark grafting on mango is now made possible by the BPI-Davao National Crop Research and Development Center.
BPI-NMRDC, for its part, is maintaining the germplasm on mango with the continuous collection, evaluation, characterization, and documentation of different mango accessions.
New initiative
In a related development, PCAARRD and the Department of Science and Technology are funding a program titled “Advancing the Philippine mango industry: Production of export-quality mangoes”.
The program aims to expand the supply of safe and export-quality mangoes with the adoption of Integrated Crop Management and Postharvest Quality Management practices, and GAP and Quality Assurance guidelines (Project 2). It also aims to develop pre- and postharvest tools/equipment and facilities for mango production and processing in Region11 (Project 1).
Aside from Region 11, the Program’s Project 2 will be implemented in Regions 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6.  (Butch S. Pagcaliwagan, S&T Media Service)

Magsasaka Siyentista showcases improved swine production

“I am not just a farmer; I am an agripreneur,” said Ramon Peñalosa, Jr. during a field day in his farm in Victorias City, Negros Occidental.
Peñalosa, Magsasaka Siyentista (MS) of the Western Visayas Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium (WESVARRDEC), showcased his improved housing for swine fattening to 22 farmer-beneficiaries from his locality.
He also showed his improved organic farming practices.
Representing WESVARRDEC Director Joseph Idemne, Dr. Reynaldo Dusaran, Regional Techno Transfer and Promotion Coordinator, echoed MS Peñalosa’s slogan, “There is no unproductive farm; only unproductive farmer”. Thus, he encouraged the participating farmers to follow Peñalosa’s agricultural practices for them to benefit from these.
Farmers’ feedback
A farmer beneficiary said that they appreciate Peñalosa’s innovations because aside from the absence of antibiotics and growth hormones, his swine also has a unique meat quality and has less fat.  This is so because as part of Peñalosa’s improved housing for swine, the pig pens are designed so that swine manure is systematically converted to vermicast. Considered an excellent organic fertilizer, vermicast allows for improved swine production and additional profit.
Under the Science and Technology-Based Farm of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), Peñalosa uses the probiotics or a series of technologies which promotes organic swine fattening. Incidentally, these practices are consistent with the Organic Negros campaign of the province.
According to another beneficiary, MS Peñalosa did not only inspire the farmers to replicate his technology; his detailed lectures also prove that his technologies are doable and profitable.
Among others, MS Peñalosa stressed that the sustainability of a farming venture can be brought about by the farmer’s entrepreneurial spirit. For Peñalosa, a farmer must possess an “agripreneurial” spirit that while he is passionate in his farming, he also has an enterprising spirit to maximize the opportunities in his farm.
Peñalosa added that a farmer must make “real money” from his hard work.
Marketing agreement
Aside from Peñalosa’s’ lecture and farm tour, farmer beneficiaries were given piglets. They were also made to form a marketing agreement with Peñalosa. Under the arrangement, farmer beneficiaries will also be provided feeds, probiotics, natural food supplement (NFS), and other inputs. To be able to pay Peñalosa, farmers will have to sell their produce to him.
To ensure the success of the agreement, barangay and other local officials were requested to help monitor the progress of the beneficiaries.  (Jethro Dagunan, WESVARRDEC S&T Media Service)

PhilRice exec urges farmers to think green, smart rice farming

by Ramon Efren R. Lazaro

Farmers are being urged by Dr. Eufemio Rasco Jr., executive director of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) to consider green and smart initiatives to attain food security and sufficiency.

He emphasized energy in rice farming, mechanization, biotechnology, use of information and communication technologies, and upcoming Philippine Rice Academy as some green and smart initiatives that could help the country achieve rice self-sufficiency.

During the recent 2012 National Rice Summit held in Clark, Pampanga, Rasco said green initiatives aim to reduce external input, particularly energy, while smart initiatives are knowledge-intensive and hard labor-reducing technologies.

Currently, PhilRice has the Energy in Rice Farming Program as key green initiative in helping the agriculture sector reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.

Rasco noted the need to lessen dependence on fossil fuel on various stages of rice production, from land preparation to marketing the produce and explained that they are embarking on the “Energy in Rice Farming Program” that features ways to reduce energy in rice farming.

To labor shortage, Rasco said that they have already developed farm machines designed to address location-specific concerns such as rice combine, transplanter and drumseeder among others to help reduce significant yield losses attributed to manual farming.

PhilRice researchers have also optimize biotechnology tools on developing heat- and submergence-tolerant varieties to help farmers adapt to climate change. The Institute’s genebank houses more than 12,000 accessions that serve as materials for breeding work.

With the ‘e-everything’ phenomenon in the Philippines , PhilRice also harnesses benefits from information technologies.

“Space technology and meteorology can be used to determine status of rice farms, forecast disasters, and organize disaster response”, said Rasco and stressed the use of IT applications for precision farming and supply chain management.

Rasco added that PhilRice is working on a Philippine Rice Academy, an advanced research and training academy focused on promoting 21st century farm techniques. These modern techniques are anchored on precision agriculture principles and practices and entail the use of machines, information technologies, and biotechnology.

In a previous press conference in PhilRice, Rasco noted that farming is not attractive anymore to the children of farmers because of the dwindling income farming families have been getting from their farm lands.
 “In fact, the average age of farmers are now pegged at 57 years old,” Rasco said and added that they are now collaborating with the Departments of Agrarian Reform, Agriculture and Environment and Natural Resources to come out with a program that will encourage the youth to get back into farming with a bigger income and at the same time help achieve the rice self-sufficiency program of the Aquino administration.

The collaboration effort, Rasco explained has led to the Agrarian Reform Community Connectivity and Economic Support Services (ARCCESS) program that will benefit agrarian reform beneficiaries in the country with its pilot project to begin in Central Luzon .

It was found out that despite the efforts of government agencies and other stakeholders to help improve the yields and incomes of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs), gaps still remain.

ARBs farm activities are noted to be mostly fragmented and there are limited consolidations of produce that exacerbate rural poverty and endanger the gains of land reform including the beneficiaries’ desire to maintain ownership and production of awarded lands.

Through ARCCESS, the program aims to improve farm and off-farm net incomes of ARBs through enhanced agri-productivity.

ARCCESS intends to achieve economies of scale in agricultural production not by reconsolidating lands but by organizing the important facets of land preparation, planting, harvesting, logistics and marketing in order to reduce the cost of inputs, improve production efficiencies and increase productivity and incomes of ARBs.

In organizing the supply chain, ARCCESS, focuses mainly on the production, post-production and post-harvest requirements of the ARB organizations that will be a model public-private partnership (PPP), wherein the government steps and taps professional service providers to build the capacity of ARB organizations and connect them with the commodity buyers or the private sector.

Professional service providers will incubate the agri-enterprises of ARB organizations until the organization can already manage their activities by themselves.

A Memorandum of Understanding for the program was recently signed by Rasco for PhilRice, Agrarian Reform Sec. Virgilio de los Reyes and the Department of Agriculture represented by Asec. Dante de Lima.

De los Reyes said the collaboration of DA-DAR and DENR hopes to improve the ARB organizations so that agricultural assistances to the farmers can easily be facilitated.

This way, farmer beneficiaries will be prevented from selling their landholdings and encourages them to be more productive in their agricultural practices.
On the other hand, de Lima said the collaboration effort between the agriculture, agrarian reform and environment departments is a milestone for the farmers to finally make their farm lands more productive.

He noted that the country is seven to 10 years behind development services in the agriculture sector and the project is seen to eventually improve the lives of the farmers and help attain the rice self-sufficiency program of the government by next year.

De Lima also explained that the country’s rice importation in the last three years has drastically decreased and could be rice self sufficient by next year.