Wake Up, Philippines!

Mango people in Bohol confab

Posted in Agriculture by Erineus on May 2, 2009
May 1, 2009, 6:37pm

We have met some of the most interesting mango people at the 11th National Mango Congress held at the Bohol Cultural Center in Tagbilaran City from April 27 to 29.

One interesting lecturer is Frank Sacdalan who grows mangoes on a total of more than 38 hectares in Libungan, South Cotabato. Two of his farms are owned by him while two others are leased from their owners.

He is particularly proud of the 142 tons of mangoes he harvested from 500 trees on February 13 to 19, 2008. Some of the trees are 30 to 50 years old. He is so proud because he was able to sell his harvest at P31.50 per kilo so that he was able to gross P4.4 million from that particular harvest. The cost of production and marketing was P1.7 million so he made a net profit of P2.7 million.

Frank discussed at Congress how he can make two harvests from his mango trees twice in 14 months. He does this by applying paclobutrazol (Cultar is the brand name) in the soil. This hastens the maturiy of the leaves so that they could be induced to flower in just 3 to 4 months from treatment with Cultar. If one were to depend only on mother nature, the maturity of the leaves will not be uniform and it will take 8 months before the trees could be sprayed with flower inducer.

If the trees are treated with Cultar in October, the trees could be induced to flower in late January or early February. The fruits will be harvestable in late May or early June. Immediately after harvesting, the trees could be induced again to bloom. There is no more need to apply Cultar at this time. This will be harvestable in late October or November.

Thus he can harvest from his trees two times within one year.

Another interesting fellow we met is Patricio Evangelista, president of the Federation of Mango Growers and Handlers Associations of Pangasinan, Inc. He is busy attending to so many things, contacting a lot of mango people. That’s because it will be the turn of Pangasinan to host the 12th National Mango Congress which will be held in Lingayen on February 22 to 24, 2010.

At some other time, we will be featuring other interesting mango people in our write ups soon. There are many other interesting personalities in the mango industry from Cebu, Bohol, Visayas and Mindanao. Just keep yourself posted on our agri-page and the magazines we write for.

Experts claim success with ‘green water’vs bacteria

Posted in Agriculture, Research/Development by Erineus on May 2, 2009
May 2, 2009, 6:32pm

Two University of the Philippines (UP) biotechnology experts have finally succeeded in battling the pesky luminous bacteria that have caused untold losses to shrimp growers.

Dr. Jesse D. Ronquillo of the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology and Prof. Valeriano L. Corre, Jr. of the Institute of Aqualculture (IA), College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences from the University of the Philippines in the Visayas (UPV) said their research has shown that using “green water” technology eliminates the bacteria that had caused high mortalities in prawn grow-out areas.

Research on the problem started in 1999 but the technology was perfected only in the last three years.

Ronquillo and Corre said the project aimed to prevent and control aquaculture diseases like the spread of vibrio or luminous bacteria, which broke out in 1993 and exterminated shrimps in Visayas farms.

Chlorination had long been used to reduce pathogens in the water but the impact was short-term since rapid repopulation of seawater occurred upon dechlorination.

Another method was to use vaccines and antibiotics but no vaccine has been available to eliminate most shrimp diseases. Moreover, the use of antibiotics is suspect since it can have collateral effects on consumers.

Modifications in management techniques were suggested to address the problem posed by luminous bacteria but the semi-intensive farming method and the use of modular ponds proved to be rather expensive and laborious.

Since the completion of the project in 2002, shrimp production has been enhanced.

The new technology uses green water to culture shrimps. It is a technique that relies on phytoplankton-rich water. In this system, saline tilapia is also propagated in fish cages to produce green water, which controls the growth of luminous bacteria.

Green water technology is the most functional solution, Ronquillo and Corre said.

Through this technique, pathogen growth can be inhibited, water quality can be improved and the immune system of the cultured species can be stimulated. The use of biocontrol agents like living microorganisms, aside from being a biological method, costs much less.

The propagation of green water technology is funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) through its biotechnology research and development (R&D) program.


Medicinal properties of seaweeds cited By Rudy A. Fernandez

Posted in Agriculture, Alternative Medicines, Medicine by Erineus on February 24, 2009

By Rudy A. Fernandez
Updated November 23, 2008 12:00 AM

Seaweeds, aside from their commercial value, have health and wellness properties.

This explains why people who regularly consume these so-called “ocean herbs”, notably the Japanese, have longer life span and are healthier.

Scientific studies have shown that seaweeds have more protein than meat, more calcium than milk, and higher fiber than vegetables, according to the University of the Philippines Diliman-College of Science-Marine Science Institute (UPD-CS-MSI).

Dr. Marco Nemesio Montaño of the UPD-CS-MSI said that the many beneficial properties of these dietary algae include being anti-oxidant, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-tumor, and anti-wrinkle.

Moreover, seaweed lowers blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol, and inhibits cell-cell adhesion, he said at the 2008 Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Commercialization Forum organized recently by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR).

Reporting on the strides achieved in seaweed research, Dr. Montaño said that there are some phytochemicals (plant chemicals) unique to seaweed. These include carotenoids (seaweed pigments) such as fucoxanthin, seaweed sterols, fibers, seaweed anti-herbivore chemical defenses, and acidic polyssacharides (carrageenan, fucoidan).

Fucoxanthin is a pharmacologically active caretenoid commonly distributed in brown algae. It acts as an anti-oxidant (“sweeper” of the body’s toxins or “radicals,”, among other things) and inhibits colon cancer cells and cells of neuroblastema (malignant tumor).

“It has been found that fucoxanthin reduces the viability of prostate cancer cells by inducing apoptosis (natural cell death) to a greater extent than the other carotenoids. Moreover, it can induce apoptosis in human leukemia cells,” said Montaño, as reported by BAR’s Christmas de Guzman.

In terms of wellness, a new product line developed by UPD-CS-MSI from seaweed extracts is the Seamoy (with approved patent and trademark).

This is a seaweed-based, low-cost air freshener gel that uses floral scents to give rooms, cabinets, lockers, and cars a clean, fresh smell. The gel can be easily handled and packed in many ways.

The use of seaweeds as a base ingredient for air fresheners has improved the quality of those existing in the market today, said Montaño.

Air freshener gels usually last only for two to three weeks whereas some soft gels, which may contain soft paraffin, can cause clogging in air-conditioning units.

Such gels also are expensive owing to the high production cost of its base ingredient, carrageenan, an algal polysaccharide used to give the air freshener gel a clear appearance. Carrageenan is extracted from certain types of seaweeds.

Summing up, Dr. Montaño encouraged people interested in venturing into seaweed business to initiate R&D activities that would facilitate funding and improve the seaweed industry.

View previous articles from this author.

A new method of making burong dalag

Posted in Agriculture, Tips by Erineus on February 24, 2009

Updated February 22, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – There’s a much improved scientific way of processing and packaging burong dalag (fermented mudfish).

The technology was developed by researchers Raquel Pambid, Wilma de Vera, Veronica Austria, Teresita Sunga, and Rosabella Mendez of the Pangasinan State University (PSU, Bayambang campus).

Their research project, titled “Processing and Packaging Improvement of Burong Dalag”, won the top prize in the 2009 Aquatic Technology Competition and Marketplace (ATCOM) sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development (DOST-PCAMRD).

The PSU researchers said the practice of making buro dates to the Spanish times when, during semana santa (Holy Week), the people abstained from eating meat. Instead, they turned to fish and vegetables.

They noted: “To enjoy their fare of fish even during semana santa they preserved fish drenched in salt and mixed with rice and left it to ferment in earthen jars. Thus, buro was born.”

The PSU study aimed to make buro retain its delicious taste and at the same time eliminate its unfavorable odor so that it can be marketable locally and abroad. It also wanted to help buro makers perfect the product not only as raw material but cooked as well.

The researchers focused on salting, a critical point in making buro.

“The new formula used 24 percent rock salt to ferment dalag in 18-20 days. Beyond 20 days, bad smell develops and some molds may start to grow,” they said.

The new technology observes the following procedures: cleaning of the fish (minus head and internal organs), freezing of the cleansed fish, salting and soaking, draining of salted fish, stuffing of salted fish with cooked cooled rice, fermenting, cooking, sterilizing, bottling, and labeling.

The technology has been adopted by PSU, which has established markets in some restaurants, schools, and offices in Pangasinan. – Rudy A. Fernandez


More farmers go for Bt corn

Posted in Agriculture, BT Crops, DA by Erineus on February 17, 2009

DON’T look now, but more and more farmers are planting Bt corn, the GMO or genetically modified corn variety that many anti-biotech people had been condemning. Last year, at least 200,000 small corn farmers planted and made money from Bt corn, planting some 350,000 hectares.

The fast increasing popularity of Bt corn with local farmers could be easily gauged by the fact that in 2005, only 10,000 hectares were planted to this transgenic crop. Last year, the figure increased 35 times.

One avid grower of Bt corn is a widow, 54-year-old Lydia Lapastora of Brgy. Yeban Norte, Benito Soliven, Isabela. She has been planting Bt corn since 2005 when the same was first allowed to be commercially grown in the country. Despite the admonition of the priest in her hometown, she planted Bt corn and is really glad she did.

Last year, Lydia planted Bt corn on 10 hectares and harvested an average of 6.4 tons per hectare. That’s almost double the average of 3.57 tons per hectare harvested by corn farmers nationwide. On the average, she realized an additional net profit of P11,000 per hectare as a result of planting Bt corn. Since she planted two times on the same area last year, she really made a significant income from this GMO

The Bt corn, by the way, is more profitable to grow because it does not require any chemical spraying against the very destructive corn earworm that damages a lot of corn crops. This resists corn attack because the gene of Bacillus thuringensis, a natural enemy of corn earworm has been incorporated in the transgenic corn. Chemical pesticides are not only expensive, they also poison the environment. That is why Bt corn is actually considered environmentally friendly.

Corn is the only genetically modified crop that is being commercially grown in the Philippines. In other countries like the United States, Brazil, China and India, millions of hectares are now planted to transgenic soybean, cotton, corn and a few other crops. Work is under way, however, on the development of transgenic papaya and eggplant. The potentials of transgenic crops are really great but adequate research and development funds are badly needed. So are the right policies of the government.

**** **** ****

FREE-RANGE CHICKEN SEMINAR IN DAVAO. There will be a seminar on raising Sunshine free-range chicken on Feb. 19, at 3 p.m. at the Grand Regal Hotel in Davao City. It will be conducted by Dr. Rey Itchon of Solraya Enterprises. Sunshine chicken is a fast-growing breed from France which grows fast and tastes like the native chicken. Email: info@solraya.com

Zac B. Sarian
Manila Bulletin

Fortified with Vitamin A RP may be first to okay ‘Golden’ rice

Posted in Agriculture, BT Crops, Health by Erineus on February 15, 2009

The Philippines may be the first to approve perhaps by 2012 the commercialization of Vitamin A-rich Golden Rice (GR) with multi-locational trials set soon and regulatory procedures in well-advanced stage.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is foreseeing the Philippines’ becoming first in the release of GR with both IRRI and the state-owned Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice) collaborating on this.

“The first approved Golden Rice may be in 2012, according to IRRI, that will likely happen in the Philippines,” said International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Application (ISAAA) Global Coordinator Randy A. Hautea in a press briefing.

IRRI, which is developing the genetically modified (GM) rice for the South East Asian market, has conducted its own field-testing in July last year of its GR variety and may do a second field trial this year, according to ISAAA Senior Program Officer Rhodora R. Aldemita.

Moreover, Philrice is developing its own GR variety that will even have enhanced traits including tungro-resistance and bacterial leaf blight (BLB) resistance.

Since the food crisis last year, Hautea said many companies and human welfare institutions have become aware of the need to support development of crops with important traits.

In the case of golden rice, funding comes from the Harvest Plus, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Atomic Energy Association.

Philrice’s development of GR with tungro virus and BLB-resistance is seen to strengthen the GM rice’s commercial prospect. The disease resistance is incorporated by the breeders using conventional breeding rather than genetic engineering.

Dr. Antonio A. Alfonso, PhilRice plant breeder, said that for PHilrice’s part the commercial release of GR in the Philippines may be put off beyond 2011-1012 if the Humanitarian Board and the GR Network decide to use Golden Rice 2, which has the highest level of beta-carotene.

So far, PhilRice has worked on GR1 that has lower betacarotene content than GR2. For the disease resistance, breeders used conventional breeding rather than genetic engineering.

“The targeted release on 2011 or 2012 is not yet final and may have to be modified. We have to obtain additional important data particularly on the stability and bioavailability of betacarotene in the different Golden Rice versions before the final donor will be identified. That will definitely affect the timeline for commercialization,” he said.

The GR is eyed to have a yield level similar to other newly-released varieties or at least five metric tons per hectare. PhilRice needs to conduct several seasons of multilocational field trials prior to release of GR. For this variety to get the stamp of approval by the National Seed Industry Council, it should also pass certain standards for grain and eating quality, disease and insect pest resistance and, being a genetically modified organism, biosafety.

Based on initial findings, betacarotene level in GR may fall significantly several weeks after harvest.

“Betacarotene is not stable when exposed to light, and there are enzymatic reactions within the rice grain which lead to degradation of betacarotene,” Alfonso said.

Dr. William G. Padolina, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) deputy director general, said IRRI is just stabilizing the backcrossed varieties at IRRI after which GR2 lines will be released to other rice research institutions.

It is estimated that 100 to 140 million children worldwide suffer from Vitamin A Deficiency which is causing blindness, measles, and child mortality.

While certain non-government organizations (NGO) have criticized huge budget allocation for Golden Rice as against the commodity’s value, many believe that fortifying rice with Vitamin A would be an effective and sustainable means to help Vitamin A-deficient rice-eating populations.

“For poor Filipinos, rice with a little amount of salt or a little amount of fish sauce will already make a meal (as no other),” said Dr. Evelyn Mae Tecson-Mendoza of the Institute of Plant Breeding-University of the PHilippines-Los Banos.

IRRI is also fortifying rice varieties with zinc and iron as zinc deficiency in South East Asia is reaching to 71 percent, according to Harvest Plus, while anemia arising from iron deficiency is affecting 57 percent of studied population.

IRRI plant breeders have already exceeded their targeted 24 micrograms per gram zinc content on rice while the target of 14 micrograms er gram target on high iron rice has yet to be hit at the prevent eight ug per g level.

While it is possible to combine biofortified zinc and iron-rich rice with GR, Padolina said no work on this is yet on-going.

Another genetically engineered rice is planned to be released in China . This is resistant to lepidopteran pests.

However, breeders are confident that the bio-fortified rice varieties may likely have stronger acceptability among consumers and farmers.

“We hope ( China will be the first to release a GM rice in Asia ). But we have to be careful to commercialize GM rice because we export rice to other countries. Maybe in China there’s no problem, but there (may be a problem) in the export market,” said Zhen Zhu of the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in a recent biotechnology forum.

China is ready to commercialize its GM rice if not for the fear certain preparations that it hopes will also ready its export market for the rice.


RP expands Bt crop area by 100,000 hectares more

Posted in Agriculture, BT Crops, Environment, Social Issues/Concerns by Erineus on February 15, 2009

The Philippines has posted another biotechnology (Bt) crop growth with a 100,000-hectare expansion of genetically modified (GM) corn to 350,000 hectares, although expansion may later slow down as it saturates the market.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) has reported the significant 40 percent growth for 2008 from the previous year’s 250,000 hectare-area for the Asiatic corn borer-resistant Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn.

However, ISAAA Global Coordinator Randy A. Hautea said growth in the future may slow down as Bt corn is now eating up on the hybrid corn area.

“One-third of our yellow corn is now Bt corn,” Hautea said in a press briefing, implying a saturation in the market.

More technologically-advanced farmers planting hybrid rice are normally the ones who have the technical know-how and have the resources to shift to the genetically modified (GM) corn.

ISAAA attributes the fast growth of the country’s biotechnology corn area to the spread of information regarding the benefit farmers get from Bt corn. While organizations like religious ones may be blocking expansion of the technology, he said farmers in religiously-devout countries like Brazil and Argentina have influenced each other in adopting GM technologies.

This, he said, may happen in the Philippines and its neighboring countries which are now adopting biotechnology crops after the country pioneered Bt corn’s commercialization in 2002.

Already 55 countries have officially adopted biotechnology crops of which 25 including the Philippines publicly declare their approval of it.

The other countries with big areas are biotechnology areas are the United States, 62.5 million hectares; Argentina, 21 million; Brazil, 15.8 million; India and Canada, 7.6 million each; China, 3.8 million; Paraguay, 2.7 million; South Africa, 1.8 million; Uruguay, 700,000 hectares; and Bolivia, 600,000 hectares.

While certain countries have policies against-growing GM crops, 30 countries including Japan publicly declare approval for GM crops’ importation.

Moreover, in South East Asia, there are three or four countries that are growing GM crops despite non-official approval. These are Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia.

Lydia Lapastora, an Isabela farmer who has become millionaire out of growing Bt corn, said in the same press briefing that her average yield for the Roundup Ready yellow corn, a herbicide-resistant GM corn, is at 6.4 metric tons (MT) per hectare.

Her yield even reaches to seven MT per hectare which is way higher than the 5.5 MT per hectare average for non-conventional corn.

Lapastora, a Magsasaka Siyentista 2008 awardee, said her net income for the herbicide-resistant corn has increased to P45,215 per hectare, up from P34,194 per hectare using the conventional corn.

This as she eliminated her P1,500 per hectare cost for corn borer control and as her weed control cost dropped to P1,240 per hectare in the GM corn compared to P2,750 per hectare in the conventional corn.