Monday, April 13, 2015

Terraces, Part 14

Old and existing terraces are stabilized, new layers of stones are added on them as previous organic matter decompose and the small stones behind them sink. On one side of the farm, photo as of August 2014....

Stabilized the stones and added more organic matter, soil  and small stones behind the big stones.  Photo as of mid-March 2015,

Another before-after photos. Below, as of August 2014, six layers of stones in this portion, the main "blocking force" against flash flood in this part of the farm.

After, mid-March 2015, seven layers of stones plus thicker deposit of soil and smaller stones behind them. In the photo is Doy, I hired him for one day extra work.

Cleaning up litter falls that will soon be washed out by flash flood. Before...

...After, Doy patiently raked and gathered these many dried leaves and branches up, behind those stones. There, they will decompose soon and become new rich topsoil that new roots of the trees will "consume".

Photos below taken last April 04, 2015. More dried leaves and branches were added at the back of the big stones.

Then partially covered by soil, taken at the base. The new top soil were organic matter that were trapped by this structure, has decayed. Imagine the amount of top soil  that has been preserved, and flash flood that has been temporarily impounded, for a few hours.

How thick or how high is the new soil that has been trapped at the base? Here  is one measurement, about 6-8 inches high, or about 3/4 of the shovel base, at around 1.5 meters distance from the big stones.

How it looked before the new topsoil was formed -- hard soil with lots of small stones on the surface.

The big stones on the front. This will change when I go back there next few weeks. We will build a 2nd column of stones behind them.


See also:
Terraces, Part 10, August 30, 2014
Terraces, Part 11, October 22, 2014
Terraces, Part 12, March 10, 2015
Terraces, Part 13, March 13, 2015

Monday, March 16, 2015

Israeli Agriculture, Modern and High Tech

Two weeks ago, I attended an agricultre seminar given by the Israel embassy here in Manila, to interested Filipino farmers and farm owners/managers. A friend and co-parent at TSAA, Noel Sandicon informed me about the seminar. Presentations were made by Eitan Neubauer, Counselor for Intl. Development Corp. (MASHAV), Science and Agriculture, Israeli Embassy in Beijing.

Some data in their dairy farming productivity.

I was amazed by their high tech farming, very high farm productivity.

Water for irrigation is a big problem, rainy season is only 3 months a year. The main solution is using effluent, used water by households and companies, transported several kilometers away for treatment, and use the treated water for irrigation. The share of effluent water is rising.

Since 60 percent of its land area is desert, plus the need for residential, commercial, industrial zones on the remaining 40 percent, agricultural land is very small. Thus, soil less farming via hydroponics is common. Private sector dynamism and innovation is very clear.

One application of biotech, genetic engineering and producing a GMO, long shelf-life tomatoes. Fantastic.

Fertigation means fertilizers + irrigation. So the water that passes through the tubes that nourish the roots contain exact amount of fertilizers that the crops need, depending on their age (in days). One advantage of hydroponics and soil-less farming, is that the crops are automatic organic. Bacteria, fungi, etc. normally live and multiply in the soil. Since there is no soil involved, no bacteria or fungi enters the crops. Zero pesticides, zero insecticides, zero fungicides.

Fantastic how they drastically controlled (but not totally eradicate of course), a big pest that can cause huge crop damage, the Mediterranean fruit fly.

One big problem in PH mangos, big headache actually, is cecid fly or "kurikong manga". When they attack, you can expect up to total crop failure. We have zero mango harvest in our farm the past 3 or 4 years already because of this pest, which is invisible to the naked eye.

Cantaloupe via genetic engineering again, a new GMO. Nice and safe to eat.

I assume that it's all private companies developing these scientific progress. The Israeli government is busy with security matters so the private sector should be busy with innovation and enterprise competition at the global scale.

I am not aware if similar high-tech dairy farms are existing in the PH. Almost all of our powdered milk are imported, the bottled or boxed liquid milk may be locally produced but they are not exactly cheap.

To harvest 600-1,500 kgs of fish on a small, 1,000 sq. m. (1/10 of an hectare) pool is too high. One can feed hundreds of people with just one hectare of land area, continuously, all year round. Fantastic.

I admire the Israeli private sector for these and other scientific breakthrough in agriculture and food production. Food supply will never be a problem in the planet as the trend is rising food output per hectare of land area. "More food for less resources" is the default mode of modern agriculture. 

See also: 
Seeds for Mankind, February 25, 2015 

Kurikong Mangga or Cecid Fly, Huge Crop Losses

I wrote this last March 04, 2015:

Two weeks ago, we were hopeful that we can finally harvest mangos in the farm, after about 3 or 4 years of zero harvest due to massive attacks by "kurikong mangga" or cecid fly.  See here, some of the  young mangos in the farm, photo taken last February 14 or just two weeks ago.

I went back to the farm last weekend, our caretaker told me that many young fruits have been infected already, many have fallen to the ground already.

See the dark and black spots. The damage penetrates inside, under the skin. Horrible pests.

The other side of these three young fruits. The pests are too small, they seem to be not visible to the naked eye.

Every year, a different group of mango sprayers come to the farm. Sharing of harvest, assuming there is one, is 70 percent to the sprayer and 30 percent to the farm owner/s. This year's sprayer is supposed to have discovered new treatment or pesticides vs kurikong mangga. It showed  initially because the fruits have reached more 1 to 1 1/2 inch in height already.

But it seems the pests were simply decimated partially. Those that were able to escape and survive came back, with a vengeance.

These packages of pesticides I found in the farm. The sprayers have left them there. I took some photos last February 14. I am not familiar how effective these chemicals are.

Labels at the back.

While we will experience another loss this year in  the form of zero share, zero harvest, bigger loss is to be borne by the sprayers. I expect that their loss should be near six digits, cost of chemicals + labor + food + transportation. Their workers/sprayers go to the farm every five days on average.

Among the travails and uncertainties of agri-business.

Last Saturday, March 14, I visited the farm again. Damage to the fruits has been rather extensive. Instead  of  several  hundreds kaing  of  mangos, we  should be lucky if we can get 10 kaing. Or zero, again, for the 4th or 5th straight year. Here are some of the fruits which have fallen to the ground, and they are about 1 1/2 months away from harvest period. They have huge or wide cracks up in the tree, or lots of black spots in the skin, before they fall  down.

Poor us. But more unlucky are the mango sprayers who spent tens of thousands of pesos in our farm alone, plus probably the same amount of money in a neighboring farm.

See also: 
Upland mangos sweeter than lowland mangos?, June 12, 2007 
Cecid Fly or "Kurikong Manga", March 19, 2012 

Hoping for a Mango Harvest This Year, February 17, 2015

Friday, March 13, 2015

Terraces, Part 13

Two weekends ago, I visited the farm. The big "wall" that we built several years ago, the stones are shrinking, as the soil below them becomes compacted. Time to adjust them. We removed one layer of stones each on the first and second rows, and put them on the third row.

Below, before we  worked on it. Notice the 3rd row, the sinking is visible...

After. The 3rd row became higher and more prominent.

Close up of the three rows of stones.

Top view, before...

 After. Behind the big stones in each row are many smaller stones to stabilize them. Plus soil and organic matter as additional but weaker back up materials. Where did we get the soil and additional smaller stones...

From here. The trapped organic matter that has decomposed and became very soft soil. We removed about six inches deep on average here. This area becomes a temporary pool of trapped water and organic matter during heavy rains. Meaning, it can reduce a huge volume of water and hence, reduce flash flood, and reduce or prevent erosion of precious top soil in this part of the farm. 

Good job, the "wall."

See also:
Terraces, Part 9, July 07, 2014 
Terraces, Part 10, August 30, 2014
Terraces, Part 11, October 22, 2014
Terraces, Part 12, November 28, 2014

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Terraces, Part 12

These photos were taken November 23, 2014. We expanded the terrace here. Below, before and after.

Another view, before and after.

We cleared many grasses, vines and small mahogany trees that are too close to each other and hence, have no chance of growing big. Organic matter as filling materials. Through time, natural  soil erosion from higher ground will  fill up and flatten, even exceed, this area. Then there will be a need to raise the terrace's height, or build a second, higher row of terrace.

Another view. Lower photo, from left: Marlon (extra worker for that day only), Nong Endring Paragas, and his son Danny.

And these photos below taken last weekend. From two layers raised to four layers of stones. Lots of organic matter, soil and small stones were added at the back of these bigger stones.

Stones re-arranged and a 4th layer of stones were added.

Thanks for viewing.

See also:
Stone Terraces, Part 7, March 30, 2014
Stone Terraces, Part 8, June 03, 2014
Terraces, Part 9, July 07, 2014 
Terraces, Part 10, August 30, 2014
Terraces, Part 11, October 22, 2014

Monday, March 02, 2015

Natural Pool to Cool Down

Photos below I took last February 14, 2015 at the farm. The hot months of March  to May have started. It's good to  have even a small pool to cool down for a few minutes. I cleared this area of decaying leaves and branches at the bottom. After about two hours, it's clear. somehow.

Not deep, maybe about 2 1/2 feet, enough to submerge my body and feel the cool water even at noon time.

Some small fishes tried to  come in, I shooed them away :-)

After lunch, we (I brought my family there) left the farm and proceeded to Lingayen beach.

See also: 
Caught in a flash flood, June 18, 2006 
My treehouse in the farm, February 25, 2009 
My swimming pool in the farm, 2005, June 10, 2011 
Creek, canal and irrigation, September 05, 2011

Fields of Gold, Harvested

Two photos of the ricefield in front of my treehouse, last February 14, 2015. Fields of gold, mature rice to be harvested about 2-3 days after. My treehouse is surrounded by tall mahogany trees, except the front area facing the rice field.

Farm caretaker Nong Endring Paragas plants rice here twice a year, the dry months (March-May), the land  is on fallow, rest. Our friend Charlie Espinosa, a local farmer, helps Nong endring till this land.

The mature rice as seen  from the 2nd floor of my treehouse.

I went back to the farm last weekend. The harvested area. Nong Endring used to have cows before, the rice straw would be consumed by the cows. He sold all his cows a few years ago as  he was getting  older. The rice straw was burned.

Young rice plants as of late November 2014. Above photo facing the treehouse, lower photo taken from the 2nd floor of the treehouse.

The irrigation canal that brings water  to  the  ricefield. Also taken last November.

See also: 
Rice prices and soil conservation, March 27, 2008 
Rice Farms, July 11, 2012 
Around My Treehouse, May 02, 2013 
Water Impounding and Irrigation, December 05, 2013 
Maya Bird as Rice Pest, May 05, 2014

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Seeds for Mankind

When I attended the "International Training Seminar on Sustainable Agriculture in an Environmental Perspective" in Sweden in 2003, we have several reading materials. Among them was "Seeds for Mankind", published by the International Seed Federation (ISF), May 2002.

(This photo from
The monograph is reader-friendly even for non-scientists. Good economic sense. For instance, its conclusion suggested that the public sector should refrain from being active in the competitive area… Governments should focus on their roles as regulators and developers of infrastructures..

Below was my summary of that good paper.

Seeds for mankind

Modern Plant Breeding
It is a two-step process: (a) creation of genetic variability, (b) selection of cultivars for specific purposes. It use the laws of heredity (discovered by Mendel, 1856) and statistics (developed by Fisher and Pearson, around 1860)

Objectives of Plant Breeding:

1. Productivity: about 30-60% of yield increases is due to genetic improvement Hardiness/Yield

2. Stability: show more adaptability than low-yielding older varieties

3. Diseases and Pest Resistance: by using existing resistance in species, and by genetic engineering

4. Biodiversity, in particular:
(a) Crop genetic diversity – bet. 6,000 to 7,000 new varieties are protectedannually in the UPOV member states,
(b) Biotape protection – preservation of places where species live

5. Product Quality, in particular:
(a) Technical quality processibility of the raw material,
(b) Food quality – ability of food to keep sensory characteristics and physical qualities under given conditions

6. Crop Management: for crop protection and minimizing soil tillage
Regional Adaptation: facilitate the introduction of new promising crops to other regions of the world.

Production and Marketing of High Quality Seed

Too often, new and better varieties released by plant breeders are not produced and commercialized to farmers.
Seed Production: maintain genetic quality, maintain seed viability and health
Seed Marketing: market research à seed promotion à seed pricing à seed distribution.

Main Actors of the Seed Chain

Basic research: both the public and private sectors
Varietal development: over the long-term, private sector should do this
Seed production, processing and marketing: private sector; govt. to improve infra, tax incentives, credit
Quality control: private seed companies with govt. supervision

See also: