Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dagupan City to be an Aquaculture Zone

Dagupan City, known as the bangus capital in Northern Luzon is now being considered as an aquaculture zone by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority.

PEZA officials led by Emmanuel Lopez discussed the hosting of an aquaculture zone by the city with Dagupan City officials. 

Dagupan City known for its Bonuan Bangus may enter into packaging and branding the bangus as Dagupan’s Best.

This is but one step in strengthening the aquaculture industry of the city and synergizing the other strengths of Dagupan that includes its current demographic sweet spot in human resources that is backed up by its reputation as a center of education in Northern Luzon owing to the 3 universities, several colleges and other educational institutions in its premises.

He said strengthening the city’s aquaculture industry was a step in the right direction.

This will enable Dagupan City to be technically prepared to meet the demands of the future owing to economic, technological and social dynamics that are ever changing. The technical skills improvement required will be provided by the educational institutions.

This is complemented by the Comprehensive Land Use Plan CLUP of the city that was developed and crafted by the city administration led by Mayor Belen Fernandez. The CLUP is just awaiting approval by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB).

A CLUP guide the city in maximizing its land utilization by assigning areas that will complement each other with regards to human settlement, economic development, disaster risk reduction and management, utilization of natural resources and general economic improvement.

This also addresses on how to optimize the human resources of the city not only for the present but also for the future.  “Sooner or later, artificial intelligence will replace the traditional call centers and we need to be ready for it,” Lopez discloed.

 At the end of the day, what Dagupan needs is a system that works to be a potential economic zone, Lopez said. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Conference for Small and Family Farmers

The 1st National Small & Family Farmers; New & Beginning Farmers Conference will be held on March 20-21, 2017 at SEARCA at UPLB Laguna. This is for all small farmers and farms that are family run.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) the average small scale farms have an average size of 1.29 hectares. Even so, of all the 5.56 million farms 38% are half a hectare or less in size. 

Given this backdrop and also according to the PSA, 60% of the Philippine population resides in the rural areas and thus have agriculture as the main industry for their livelihood, the economic upliftment of the country is now dependent of how the agricultural sector contributes to the national economy.

This serves as the impetus in having a comprehensive developmental plan for the agricultural sector with emphasis on small and family farms of the above mentioned scale. 

Thus, the The 1st National Small & Family Farmers; New & Beginning Farmers Conference, brings together for the first time stakeholders of this very important yet often neglected segment of our agricultural industry. 

Historically, agriculture or farming started out even in pre-historic times wherein the pressure of population gave the necessity of having farms together with the hunter-gatherer segments of a tribe and even a family so as to sustain its food supply.

This changed the usual nomadic existence to a more stable gathering of people for common security and food supply sustainability. Early farms were family owned and run farms. Owing to the size of the family, they can only manage efficiently a relatively small piece of land for their food needs. This form of subsistence farming still continues to this day in the Philippines.

The current small and family farms are run not only for family subsistence but also in integration with a modern economic system and thus also in the context of a modern social and cultural system that integrates domicile, recreation and even education.   

The objective of this conference is promote the creation of systems of farming capable of maintaining their productivity and usefulness to the community. The central theme of this conference is how to mobilize our small and family farmers; new and beginning farmers for food security, sustainable tourism and rural development.

This conference is organized by a network of family farmers advocating promotion of family farming.

The conference aims to bring together a diversity of stakeholders primarily from the grassroots farming community together with professionals and leaders from academia, non-governmental organizations, governmental agencies and policy makers, whose goals and activities support the sustainability of small & family farmers and encouragement of new & beginning farmers. The conference aims to strengthen collaborations and partnerships among stakeholders, and will provide an opportunity to share new ideas in research, extension, and outreach that aim to build resilient farming systems and the quality of life within communities. 

The conference will have plenary sessions, breakout sessions, poster, exhibits and success stories presentation. Pamiliyang Magsasaka Nights

For online registration, please follow this link :

Monday, February 27, 2017

Tawi-Tawi from Rice Importer to Exporter

Rice being the staple food of the Filipinos has always been a crucial issue not only for the economy but also for politics. It was said that no Filipino leader must touch the issue of rice since it may lead to their downfall.

It is ironic that Philippines being an agricultural country is a net importer of rice. There has never been an instance that the Philippines exported rice with the exception of the year 1977. And not in substantial amounts at that.

Tawi-Tawi Province is at the southernmost tip of the Philippines and is geographically closer to Malaysia than to Manila. 

It is currently relying on imported and even smuggled rice for its sustenance since it is cheaper than locally produced rice which is ironic.

In fact, Tawi-Tawi has less than 200 hectares that is planted to rice and that tells the true story of food supply.

In this regard, Governor Rashidin Matba of Tawi-Tawi has vowed to expand and develop 6,000 hectares of new rice farmlands so as to help the province’s rice industry. This aims to attain self-sufficiency in rice as per the government target of 3 years.

The province has a population of  100,000 and the new farmlands will meet the demand for the staple.  

 “The low price resulted in the province relying mainly on smuggled rice instead of developing its rice industry,”  Department of Agriculture (DA) Secertary Piñol said.

The smuggled rice comes from Vietnam and is then coursed through Malaysia and then finds it way to the markets of the province, Sulu, Basilan and Zamboanga. 

“Tawi-Tawi hopes to reverse its fortune, from a net importer of smuggled rice to an exporter of high quality rice to neighboring Malaysia,” Piñol disclosed.

To complement this, the DA will come in with production enhancers such as seeds, fertilizers, and mechanical equipment, as well as storage facilities and a rice-processing center.

New solar powered irrigation systems will also be introduced to keep farm input costs down to make the price of locally produced rice cheaper.

Hazardous Work for Minors Updated by DOLE

Historically, Philippine agriculture is an all hands operation for the family. It is not uncommon that the children of farmers end up as farmers themselves in tilling, planting and harvesting the produce of the land that they farm. 

But the Department of Labor and Employment has updated the list of hazardous work that children are banned into performing. 

According to Department Order No. 149-A proscribes banned child labor from farm related activities as follows.

1. Plant propagation activities (grafting, marcotting, budding and weeding of soil)
2. Clearing of land
3. Plowing
4. Harrowing
5. Irrigating
6. Irrigating
7. Constructing of paddy dikes
8. Cutting
9. Handling, spraying and application of harmful fertilizers
10. Handling of pesticides
11. Handling of herbicides and other toxic materials
12. Loading and carrying of heavy loads
13. Stripping and burning of fields

According to the Department Order also listed are activities in post-harvest, minors may not be employed in de-husking, scooping, sacking of products, charcoal making, hauling of products as led by animal guide, loading and unloading of packed farm products, coconut kilning and de-meating from shell or core, sealing and carting of produce for warehousing and transport to market and all ancillary work such as clearing, cleaning, and recycling of farm waste in its preparation as animal food and other related processes.

In livestock farming, work and related activities that are declared hazardous to minors are rearing activities that involve collecting, loading, unloading and transporting of feeds, maintenance and care of large and/or dangerous animals, collecting and disposal of dead animals, animal manure and other waste materials, administering of vaccines and vitamins, and handling of disinfectants used for cleaning animal pens/enclosures or for disinfecting animals.

In harvesting activities, work and activities that involve catching or collecting, ranching, and milking in preparation for warehousing or transport to market, and post-harvest activities including the packaging and processing of dairy and other animal by-products in preparation for warehousing and transport to market; and working in slaughterhouses or abattoirs.

According to DOLE, the best interest of children is the paramount consideration to ensure that their employment does not endanger their life, safety, health and morals, nor impair their normal development.

This is based on DO 149-A, series of 2017, issued on January 16, 2017, is an amendment to Department Order no. 149, series of 2016 on “Guidelines in Assessing and Determining Hazardous Work in the Employment of Persons below 18 years of age” particularly Section 6 – B “on Hazardous Work and Activities”, subsection (i) Farmers and Other Plant Growers and (ii) Animal Producers.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Small Farmers and Jollibee in Farm Entrepreneurship Program

Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC) continues with its Farmers Entrepreneurship Program (FEP)  with Filipino farmers for 9 years. Launched in 2008, the program helps small farmers by integrating them with its supply chain for its giant fastfood business.

Initiated by the Jolibee Group Foundation (JGF), the farmers through their cooperatives supplies the vegetable requirements of the fastfood chain. Currently, supplying 20% to 30% of the the vegetable requirements, they aim to increase the participation by adding 3 more cooperatives in 2017 according to JGF Executive Director Giselle Tiongson.
 “We’re also looking at additional sites possibly in Calabarzon, Luzon and Metro Manila,” Tiongson disclosed

Farmers and cooperatives from the Visayas and Mindanao are also being considered in increasing the local supply component.

 “We are continuously looking for partners such as local government units and micro-finance institutions that will help the farmers,” added Tiongson.

One participant in the FEP has doubled his income since being part of the program and is presently earning Php1.5 million annually. 

Instead of just being limited to supplying the public wet markets, the contract farming under the FEP also has assistance from micro-finance institutions and the Local Government Units (LGUs)

This enables the farmers to program their production and output and has enabled them to be more financially and economically independent as farmers should be.

Their crops include palay, onions, and corn including “siling labuyo”.

This guarantees their income and have a stable customer base for their products.

With the guaranteed market, these farmers need not go into the usual mortgage of their lands so as to begin planting of their crops. This comes about because they are backed up by cooperatives that give guarantees to the micro-finance institutions.

Such exposure as being a supplier to a fastfood giant also opens up opportunities to other  industry markets that require farm and agricultural produce such as restaurants chains and food processors.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Bitter-Sweet Symphony. Philippine Sugar Industry vs. HFCS

In 2011,  Sugar Watch, composed mainly of labor groups and agrarian reform beneficiaries initiated a boycott of Coca-Cola products nationwide if  the Coca Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc. (CCBPI) refused to heed their call to stop importing sugar premixes and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and instead use domestically produced sugar. They were joined by the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations, National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines, and other independent sugar groups. 

But the CCBPI replied that premix importations of HFCS’ have always complied with government’s Tariff Code and does not violate any of its provisions. The company cited that it also buys locally produced sugar but refused to give the exact volume citing “competitive information” reasons.

HFCS is sourced from corn syrup and Coca Cola has been cited in many other countries for substituting it for sugar as in cases also in Mexico.

HFCS comes as a cheaper sugar substitute since the corn industry in the United States, a top corn producer in the world is highly subsidized by the US government.

Thus, the battle lines has been drawn since 2011.

Recently,  a forum on the HFCS issue was conducted undertaken by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA). This was the first held outside of Quezon City being hekld at Ormoc City for the first time. This was participated in by the SRA Board and attended and lauded by 70 sugar farmers and associations.    

The SRA issued an order to regulate the importation of HFCS in the country.

Importation of HFCS is proving to be detrimental to the local sugar industry with losses amounting to billions of pesos. HFCS imports recently surged to an equivalent of 5 million bags of sugar that affected the prices of locally produced sugar and hurt the welfare of sugar farmers.

“Non-compliance with the provisions,” SRA warned, “shall subject the importer or consignee to the penalties provided under Sugar Order No. 10, series of 2009-2010, as amended by Sugar Order No. 10-A, series of 2009-2010, without prejudice to any other administrative and/or legal action that the SRA may pursue.”

Ever since the collapse of the Philippine Sugar Industry in the 1970’s, the once mighty industry sector has never fully recovered. Philippine sugar was once one of the twin towers of the Philippine agricultural industry, the other tower being the coconut industry. Even during this time, most of the Philippine population resides in the rural areas and poverty incidence has remained high in this. In fact, 60% of those living in poverty come from the rural areas.

The sugar industry needs all the help it can get to be more competitive again. Importation of HFCS will be like driving nails into the coffin of the industry.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Mangroves potential lab for antibiotics

Philippine mangrove ecosystems have abundant bacteria whose bioactive compounds can be used to produce powerful antibiotics, according to research conducted by the University of the Philippines in Los Baños (UPLB) and Department of Science and Technology-National Research Council of the Philippines.

DOST-NRCP researcher Teofila Zulaybar of UPLB was able to isolate bioactive compounds from actinomycetes bacteria found in 10 mangrove areas in 10 provinces in the country.

The research positively tested its efficacy in treating mastitis in cows by targeting methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), its main causal organism. 

MRSA is a bacteria resistant to many antibiotics. Staphylococcus and MRSA can cause a variety of problems ranging from skin and bloodstream infections to pneumonia. 

Zulaybar was also able to screen which of the actinomycetes isolates are more effective in inhibiting the growth of different organisms other than MRSA that cause mastitis.  

Analysis of the biochemical properties of these actinomycete isolates is still ongoing but may soon be ready for patent application.

Zulaybar said that the isolates could serve as a new line of drugs for veterinary health. 

The next step in her study would be the formulation of antibiotic cream, ointment or an injectible form using the isolated bioactive compound from actinomycetes for treating mastitis in dairy cattle, she said.  

She called on other researchers to engage more in bioprospecting of novel microorganisms from rare environments that are yet to be studied in which potentially valuable compounds may be obtained for medicinal use and drug development.

Zulaybar is a member of a team of researchers from the UPLB-National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH) doing research on indigenous actinomycetes. The team is led by Irene Alcantara-Papa.

The DOST-NRCP noted that the Philippines’ antibiotics supply is heavily dependent on imports.
Actinomycetes, the DOST-NRCP explained, are microorganisms that are crucial in the production of metabolites such as antibiotics, anti-tumor agents, immunosuppressive agents (or anti-rejection drugs often used by liver, kidney or heart transplant patients) and enzymes. 
These metabolites can be anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-cancer, anti-algal, anti-malarial, and with anti-inflammatory activities.

In the ongoing R&D on indigenous actinomycetes of the BIOTECH-UPLB, 272 actinomycetes in its collection have already been screened against organisms, among them MRSA.

MRSA is a form of bacterial infection difficult to treat because it is resistant to some antibiotics such as methicillin, amoxicillin, penicillin and oxacillin. 

Of the 272 studied, 19 actinomycetes inhibited five strains of MRSA while 14 showed activity against the others.

Papa said that this research is essential for the continued search for novel bioactive compounds that could be used as antimicrobials, thus eventually enhancing the Philippine’s self-sufficiency and lessening importation of vital drugs.


Fish-yalan broodstock area at the Hundred Islands

Farm Tourism is one of the bright spots in the Philippine Tourism sector. There are now farms that are part of guided tours. It has developed from its nascent stages way back in the early 1980s with Villa Escudero as a prime example.

Not wanting to be left behind, the Hundred Islands in Alaminos, Pangasinan will not just offer white sand beaches, island hopping and water sport activities but  “Fish-yalan” as well. 

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)’s Regional Mariculture Technology Demonstration Center just opened to tourists its broodstock area with the aim of educating people on raising high-value species.

“We have our Fish-syalan here,” said Martin Allayban, head of BFAR Cariaz Island broodstock development center. 

Fish cages will be found in the island. 

 “Our fish here are not commonly seen by people… like pompano and grouper that weighed up to two kilos each not commonly seen by people in the market,” Allayban disclosed.

The site is Cariaz Island and has broodstock of malaga, pompano, abalone, grouper, snapper, including seaweeds. 

Initially brought weighing only at 250 grams each, they were then placed in fish cages for 5 to 6 years.

The fish for broodstock purposes were given enriched feeds as supplements in order to boost gonadal developments that will result in the production of good quality eggs.

BFAR Region 1 Assistant Regional Director Rosario Segundina Gaerlan disclosed that the center was initially for research purposes eventually went to production of said fishes.

The foray into farm/aquaculture tourism will not only boost tourism revenues but also serve as training areas for those who want to engage in the culturing and production of the above-mentioned fish species for commercial and livelihood purposes.

Raising Native Chickens

Philippine Native Chickens

During my youth, we had a large family compound. Although we had a front fence, there were no fences between houses and a creek ran at our back yard. I grew up familiar with chickens, ducks, geese and even pheasants. The chickens were native of course and they ranged freely, laid eggs and their eggs hatched and they had chicks, same way with the geese, ducks and pheasants. It was rare that they had to be butchered since we bought our eggs and chickens for food from the public market. They were more or less treated as pets and part of the clan wealth.

The Vantress and Peterson chickens were part of my science experiment in grade school and I managed to breed them and they grew faster than the native chickens and they were also bigger. But they were not for consumption too since they were my “experiment.

As time went on, the need for increasing the sizes of the houses in the compound meant that there will be less space for them. The time came that the native chickens, ducks and other fowls died out and they no longer bred. It was my science experiments that survived the longest but they were no longer free ranging but were kept in coops.

Little that I know that the time will come when native chickens would be scarce in our community and can be only available in the public market. 

I the current setting, native chickens are still raised in rural areas and accounts for 46% of the country’s total chicken population (76 million). Being native chickens, they catch a premium price in the mrket and is a source of additional income for the poor rural households.

Recognizing this, the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) through its Industry Strategic Science and Technology Program (ISP) for Native Chicken, has developed guidelines to enhance these raisers’ pastures and range areas to further improve production.

As with our past experience, native chickens must have a large but confining area. The chickens are free range as it is called now. The chickens can forage for their own food while having an environment where they can even ensconce themselves in the dirt and soil. 

Thus, DOST-PCAARD developed range enhancement strategies and supplemental feeding protocols. These will enable the owners of the chicken to maximize their income potential with healthier native chickens that can then be sold in the market.

A combination of farm-mixed feed and commercial feed is also encouraged and part of the management process for native chickens. Fresh drinking water must also be provided at all times.  Kitchen discards can form part of the nutritional requirements of the chickens. It is recommended by DOST-PCAARRD that a range area of at least two- meter per bird is recommended for free range area.  Vegetation may be planted which would serve as food for breeder chickens.

The planting of edible vegetation improves the quality of the existing range area for native chicken. Good quality forages are nutritious, palatable, highly digestible, and non-toxic and has anti-nutrient compounds. Some forage species are carabao grass, pinto peanut, Madre de Agua, Guinea grass, signal grass, and centrosema.

Other forage species include ‘gabi’, ‘malunggay’, Azolla, and duckweeds.

Raisers may also opt to use kitchen waste and farm by-products such as ‘sapal,’ rice/corn bran, fruit rinds, kitchen waste/leftover food, and vegetable rejects  such as ‘pechay,’ ‘kangkong,’ ‘mustasa,’ sweetpotato, and ‘alugbati.’ Fresh drinking water should be provided at all times.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Boosting Carabao Milk Production

The milkman of my youth that delivers milk by the bottles is now extinct. But I still remember memories of the local “milk maid”. The “tindera” who sells carabao milk in recycled “Ginebra” bottles. While the Magnolia or Selecta milkmen have white milk contained in their bottles, the bottles of carabao milk contains a greyish colored milk in them. The Philippines currently imports 99% of its dairy milk requirements. 

Of this 1% that is currently sourced, cows account for 64% and carabaos provide only 34%. 

At “The Role of Assisted Reproduction in Dairy Industry Development” at the S&T Agri-Biotech forum, Eufrocina. Atabay of the DA’s Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) asked  “But where will we get this if we are only one percent sufficient?” asked Eufrocina. Atabay of the DA’s Philippine Carabao Center (PCC). 

“What aggravates this situation is that there is a low number of dairy herd population both in buffalo and cattle.  Another problem is that the animals are being left unproductive for a long time and this will result to low reproduction efficiency and economic loss,” disclosed Atabay who specializes in reproductive biotechnology.

With the continued increase of the Philippine population, the insufficiency of this critical nutrient requirement must be met by a sustainable development program.

Artificial Insemination (AI) is thus one of the venues that can address said challenges. This will enable improve the dairy herd’s quality. PCC aims to conduct a nationwide training program for AI technicians  

AI is used to breed animals with higher productivity for both milk and meat by harnessing select animals’ excellent genetic materials.

Along with monitoring the success of the AI, there is also in vitro fertilization that uses AI as well. Inducing more egg-cell production of the carabaos will enable these to be preserved for future use.

Two months after the AI, the team checks the presence of fetus inside the carabao. It also uses pregnancy test on the animal to determine if the breeding is successful “so we can detect non-pregnancy at the soonest time possible,” Atabay said.

 “As we employ these technologies, we are ensuring the sustainability of the production of our local dairy animals so we can avoid the importation of live animals for a sustainable and globally competitive dairy industry,” Atabay announced.

Such scientific and technological interventions will boost milk supply. It is recognized that carabao milk is more nutritious than cow's milk. 

Such nutrition is badly needed by a burgeoning population and this will benefit the children most of all.

How to maintain Pest-free Herbs

Unlike today, home-made remedies for all sorts of aches and pains were sourced from the backyard. If one has an ankle sprain or running a fever, herbs were applied by one’s mother or the local “arbolaryo” who would then either boil it or pound it into a poultice and apply it on the affected area. Mang Kepweng was the village “arbolaryo” and would teach those who cared to listen on what plants and herbs to use in such cases. It only dawned that these plants contained natural antiseptic, anti-inflammatory or anti-biotic properties. 

Of course, one has to sing Bahay Kubo to learn the herbs and vegetables that would either spice up our food or themselves provide nutrient-rich nourishment every day of the week. The song narrates a plethora of plants, spices and vegetables that can be cooked or prepared in almost endless variations so that no meal has to be replicated in a week or even 2 weeks.

Aside from medicinal and nutrition uses, these plants and herbs also serve as “air fresheners” and even pest control resources for farmers. Soap, body scrubs, ointments and tea are also sourced from these plants. 

One enemy of all these plants and herbs are insect pests and diseases. In order to  help farmers in controlling the infestation on such useful herbs, the University of Southern Mindanao conducted studies on how to address the problems caused by pests and diseases on these herbs and plants.

The study concluded that planting herbs that are appropriately distanced from each other, applying organic fertilizer, and frequent weeding are cultural practices that are critical to controlling the spread of pests and diseases. 

In controlling leaf blight, stem blight, fruit rot and other plant and herb diseases, organic pest controls were developed that uses organic materials such as chicken dung. Proper spacing of the plants together with application of organic fertilizers and frequent weeding also greatly benefitted the plants.

It was also discovered that the cleaning of the ground where the plants are being grown also has an effect on the health of the crops. Thus, clearing dead leaves from the ground decreases the chance of fungi growing and infecting the plants.

Identification of infected plants and removing them away from non-infected plants and succeeding planting of seedlings will break the cycle of these pests and diseases recurring.

This will increase production and yield. The biomass of the plants will also be increased. Most important of all, this will avoid the use of inorganic chemical pesticides that will cause more harm than good to the plants and its quality. 

The use of inorganic pesticides also pollutes the underground water table when it seeps into the ground and end up in waterways and estuaries.  

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Native Zamboanga chicken offers good livelihood source

The native chickens in Zamboanga peninsula (Zampen) is emerging as the Philippines’ best performing native chicken, the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture and Aquatic Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) said.

With the initial findings on the superiority of the Zampen native chicken, the DOST-PCAARRD has launched a program to promote native chicken rising among farmworkers and small holder farmers to supplement their meager, if not seasonal earnings.

Synan Baguio, director of the DOST-PCAARRD Livestock Research Division, said they have already developed a batch of Zampen native chicken breed from which they would produce and distribute native chickens throughout  Zampen which covers Zamboanga City, and the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay.

The large-scale breeding of standard breed of the Zampen native chicken stock is being pursued with the Western Mindanao State University, and the Western Mindanao Agriculture and Aquatic Resources Research and Development consortium.

Baguio said  Zampen native chicken raising can be pursued by farmworkers in the small and large rubber and fruit trees as well as coconut tree plantations spread out over  Zampen, boosting their meager and seasonal income as farmworkers.

“This is really for the local farmers and farmworkers. The development of the native animals is biased for the small rural farmers,” Baguio said.

With native chicken raising, there’s no need for fences since raisers can just let the chickens roam in the farm, he noted.

Baguio said the cost of raising native chickens is low since they have their natural behavior of foraging.  He said native chickens were also more disease-resilient.

The DOST-PCAARRD has conducted a comparative study on native chickens from Zampen, Panay island, Bicol region, Bohol province.

It also  developed a breed and free range production protocol for the four native chicken strains, also as part of the program to promote native chicken raising as an additional livelihood for farmers throughout the country.

“We got the genotype that is predominant in the area on the assumption that the reason why they’re so many is because they fit in the environment, they survive well in the environment,” Baguio told The Star.

Baguio said there was a need to develop a breed to provide a Zampen native chicken quality standard that will assure breeders and the end-consumers of the quality they are looking for in the native chicken meat.

“We feel that it’s the reason why no one is investing to use our native genetic resources in building enterprises.”There will always be  reluctance to put in capital because they cannot ensure the quality of product they will be coming up with,” Baguio said.

Baguio said native chicken meat also allows raisers and sellers to command premium price, especially those who organically raise the native chickens.

“Native chicken commands a higher price because of its superior quality over commercial broilers,” Baguio said.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Agriculture: Key to Philippine Development

Agriculture remains the key to Philippine economic development. It is recognized that 60% of poor Filipinos live in the rural areas where agriculture is the main industry and any efforts for economic inclusivity must prioritize agriculture.

The current administration giving cognizance to such has made agriculture as the center stage of its economic policy for this term. 

Food production will be given priority so as to keep inflation rates low. This can be achieved through development of infrastructure, availability of credit, and insurance coverage for farm produce according to Finance Undersecretary Gil S. Beltran.  

“The journey has been tough and hard for us, simply because some of our activities actually were constrained by the fact that the budget for the (second) half of the year 2016 was designed by the previous administration,”  said Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol .

“We’re not saying these programs laid out in the 2016 national budget are not relevant to the vision of the current leadership but this situation actually somehow tied our hands in really implementing drastic reforms in the agriculture department,” Piñol said.

The DA secretary unveiled the  Rice Productivity Enhancement, intended to help rice farmers affected by the El Niño to recover from its effects by giving them rice seeds and fertilizer. But that would entail an 18 billion pesos additional budget and the economic managers of the administration remain at loggerheads with the DA proposal.

To address weather related setbacks such as disasters, activities such as distributing inputs (seeds and planting material as well as fertilizer); dispersal of animals such as chickens, pigs and goats; endowment of boats and fishing gear as well as tractors, grains dryers and other farm technologies.

“But at the same time, we also started drafting long-term programs which we believe would serve as the foundation of the new agriculture and fisheries [policy] under the Duterte administration and beyond,” the DA secretary disclosed.

The DA also conducted surveys to re-validate all agricultural data and statistics together with a color coded agricultural map that will define production and land use to be utilized in the setting up of objectives and goals for the agricultural sector.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

‘Pest’ fish now brings benefits

Also called Gloria Tilapia because the fish also has moles on the face that resembles the former President Gloria Arroyo

Once considered a pest, Gloria tilapia, also known as molmol, can now give fisher folks cash benefits.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) here has developed a fish protein concentrate in powder form to fight malnutrition from molmol whose invasion is considered a big problem by brackish fishpond owners. 

Westly Rosario, head of BFAR-Dagupan, said this powdered molmol that is ready-to- eat, may be used in feeding programs for malnourished children like what he intends to do with his organization, the Lions Club.

The powder can be used for congee that may be eaten both by young and the elderly, Rosario said. 

Rosario said the dried powderized molmol could be used as toppings for arroz caldo and other food for protein content.  It can also be used to add taste. 

“We are doing it because molmol is bland,” he said. 

Rosario said the fish bones of molmol would be included in the processing as they have a good calcium level. 

The molmol easily enters ponds and multiplies fast, Rosario said. 

Fishpond owners hate molmol because they eat milkfish fry and compete with fish feeds and space with bangus, he said. 

Since late last year, the “molmol” has been giving headaches to Pangasinan fishpond owners. 

Gloria Tilapia became a problem about five years ago in Bataan. It was originally named Arroyo tilapia, then Gloria tilapia and here in Pangasinan, it’s called molmol, Rosario said. 

Gloria Tilapia was named as such by some fish growers for some characteristics identical with former president and now Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who has moles on her face. The molmol is also small and grows about 10 centimeters only. 

Meanwhile, BFAR released 5,000 fingerlings of apahap (seabass) in selected rivers to solve fishermen’s woes on the invasion of Gloria tilapia or molmol. 

He said they are into mass production of seabass fingerlings at the BFAR center here. “We’re the only BFAR center across the country doing this. We encourage seabass culture which is high value and also as part of addressing the problem on molmol,” he said. 

Seabass is the natural predator of molmol tilapia. 

Rosario said the move to release seabass into the river is a “biological control.”

He said getting rid of molmol entails three methods: poison them, use of mechanical equipment to get them and the other through biological control by finding other organism that can eat molmol.

New hybrid varieties tighten abaca industry

Abaca, known internationally for its world-class fiber, “Manila hemp,” continues to be one of the priority agricultural commodities of the Department of Agriculture (DA) with the country supplying more than 87.4 percent of the total abaca fiber market and earning more than $111.33 million in global abaca trade annually.

However, problems such as low farm productivity, low supply of high-quality fibers, and the presence of diseases continue to threaten the industry.

Abaca bunchy top virus (ABTV) is the biggest constraint to abaca production with it lowering the quality of harvested fibers while hindering the growth of infected abaca, resulting in no harvest at all.

First observed in 1915, ABTV wiped out more than 12,000 hectares of abaca plantations in the provinces of Southern Tagalog and Bicol regions and eventually reached Visayas and Mindanao provinces such as Eastern Visayas, Davao, and Agusan del Sur.

With the increasing global demand for abaca pulp and fiber, the need to come up with solutions to manage the disease has been of urgent concern.

The DA, in partnership with experts from all over the country, has embarked on various productivity-enhancing measures to ensure the increase in supply of abaca, one of which is abaca varietal improvement.

Developing new and improved abaca varieties started in the country in early 1950’s through the initiative of University of the Philippines College of Agriculture (now University of the Philippines Los Baños) and the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI). Realizing how the industry has depended on the old abaca varieties, which were found to be very susceptible to diseases that have caused the massive decline in the sector, developing new ones with desirable traits such as high fiber yield and resistance to viral diseases has offered a profound solution.

Focused on developing a resistant variety, the team identified Pacol, a wild variety of banana, as a source of resistance genes for ABTV. Though hybridization between Pacol and abaca had started, the project was terminated in 1960’s.

In 1981, UPLB-Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB) started another abaca breeding program which found out that Pacol and abaca hybrids, though resistant to bunchy top virus, has poor fiber quality. To recover the good fiber qualities of abaca, a series of backcrossing (BC1) was conducted.

In 2006, another round of breeding work took place and a second backcross population (BC2) was developed that had improved fiber qualities as compared to the F1 and BC1 hybrids which only offered resistance to the dreaded ABTV.

In order to hasten the abaca breeding works, the government has implemented aimed at making the development of abaca varieties much faster since breeding will be more directed with the use of DNA markers linked to the trait of interest.

Marker-Assisted selection (MAS) removes the bias when morphologically selecting superior abaca varieties as it objectively selects abaca lines that are genetically superior and resistant to viral diseases.

The project, which is also being implemented by the Institute of Plant Breeding, College of Agriculture of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, seeks to respond to both the threat of abaca bunchy top virus and the industry’s demand for high fiber quality and yield by developing abaca varieties with high yield potential, excellent fiber quality traits, and virus resistance through the use of molecular marker-assisted breeding techniques.
Molecular marker techniques, which are biotechnology tools, utilize genetic marker systems in order to increase the efficiency of the screening/selection process.

To do this, scientists look for a genetic marker, a specific sequence of DNA which is tightly linked to the trait of interest.

With the markers located near the target/desired DNA sequence of the gene, they tend to be inherited from the parent to the offspring, otherwise known as genetic linkage. This linkage helps scientists identify specific genes that plants will inherit from one generation to another.

The project, led by Antonio Lalusin, utilized developed molecular markers associated with the important fiber characteristics that are vital to the industry and built-in resistance to bunchy top virus found in abaca germplasm collected all over the country.
With the genetic diversity of abaca in three islands of the country found to be highly diverse, results of the markers were deemed useful in providing the information needed to improve cultivated abaca germplasm, and the conduct of in situ conservation, molecular-based breeding, and development of superior abaca cultivars.

Using molecular markers associated with good fiber quality and resistance, the project found three out of all collected accessions from Baguio, Palawan, and Aurora as having potentially good characters, and may be promising parents for future abaca breeding programs.

From these selected promising accessions with resistance and good agronomic characteristics, cross pollination was conducted.

Selected accessions were used as parentals and were crossed with selected Backcross two hybrid and other traditional varieties.

From the conducted hybridization works, 63 hybrids out of the 84 offsprings survived and 35 hybrids were screened using gene-specific markers targeting resistance and presence of BBTV.

From this number, only three were found to be BBTV positive and five hybrids were found to show promising tensile strength with resistance to ABTV and BBTV.

The project now looks forward to further tests and succeeding evaluations of the hybrids through manual inoculation with viruliferous aphids, which are known to transmit BBTV and ABTV to test for stability in disease resistance. They will also undergo tests on agronomic characters and fiber characteristics to confirm good fiber quality.

The government sees these new hybrids contributing to the industry and providing stable earnings to the thousands of Filipinos dependent on abaca farming and to the processing industry.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Philsurin, UP-DOST develop disease-resilient sugar varieties

The Philippine Sugar Research Institute (Philsurin) and the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) are developing promising “superior”varieties of sugar that are expected to boost productivity of the country’s sugarcane farming sector.

Philsurin’s Liwayway Engle said the availability of DNA sequencing at the PGC located inside the University of the Philippines-Diliman campus in Quezon City has allowed them to identify superior varieties of sugarcane and develop a new hybrid variety.
Like any other crop, sugarcane deteriorates, becomes prone to disease and its yield decreases as it remains in the field.

The process of sugarcane breeding and marker assisted selection of promising varieties is a long and tedious process that takes eight to nine years, and also requires huge breeding populations of 100,000 to 400,000 genotypes.

MAS is a process in which scientists search for biomarkers associated with a particular trait. When a marker is found to be consistently associated with a specific trait, it may be used by scientists for screening.

Biomarkers help speed up the development of new sugarcane varieties. 

As early as 2012, Engle and her Philsurin team of researchers which include a pathologist, agronomist, and breeders, have already ranked the different promising sugarcane varieties based on field trials in Victorias City and La Carlota in Negros Occidental, and in Bukidnon.

They hope to eventually produce five high-yielding varieties while eliminating their susceptibility to two major diseases affecting sugarcane: downy mildew and smut.

The objective is to reduce the time it takes to develop a new variety by two to three years, thus shortening the process from eight to nine years to five to six years.

In identifying the markers for these diseases, they collect samples of sugarcane aged three to six months.

These samples undergo amplification or multiplication into several duplicates. The material is then subjected to electrophoresis, a technique that separates the components of a mixture of charged molecules in an electric field.

Through electrophoresis, different band patterns consisting of different DNA segments may be seen. Band patterns are also called DNA fingerprints.

Data are analyzed to compute for genetic distance to determine how similar or different the two sugarcane parents are. 

This information is useful to the scientists in deciding whether to cross pollinate or hybridize the two parents.  They do analysis or association test for the trait they are considering for the marker then they score the band patterns for each variety.

These band patterns or DNA fingerprints are also used in variety integrity tests to check the authenticity of the sugarcane variety, after which a certification is issued. This will ensure farmers are planting the right variety in their fields.


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