Saturday, May 23, 2015

Terraces Below the Treehouse

The stone terraces below my treehouse has been relatively stable, no big erosion happened. But is also a bit neglected, some unstable terraces were not repaired, lots of grasses and small vines. This photo taken last May 09, 2015.

After being cleaned, near-collapsing terraces were repaired. The uprooted grasses and vines were used as filling materials along with soil behind those stones.

Updates, taken last May 20, 2015. View from the 1st floor of my treehouse.

I don't know how to adjust my cameraphone against glaring noontime sights like this. Not clearly visible, but the repaired stone terraces are now  high, 2 layers or rows.

When I go back there, more rows will be constructed.

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

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Charcoal Economics, Part 2

Updating this blog post from the original version last November 28, 2014. Revenues from charcoal help in paying the salary of our caretakers Nong Endring Paragas and his son, Danny. The DENR and locals do not complain of "illegal cutting" as the fallen trees, big branches are from our planted trees, not from the public forest land.

Below, some of the trunks ready for charcoal making. They are big, right, but crooked, not good for lumber production.

New wood prepared. Standing is Mama Pitong, assisted by his son. Photos taken May 9, 2015. Wood, then  covered by rice straw, then  covered by soil, supported by coconut leaves so that the soil does not erode.

I didn't know that camote (sweet potato) thrives in a previous charcoal pit, like this one.

Pruning and cutting trees that are too close to each other is necessary, otherwise no or very few trees can hope to become big and appropriate for lumber production someday. We have too many of these small, medium-size trees; generally they just grew on their  own. Using them for charcoal making is the wise thing to do.

See also:
Denuded mountains, March 31, 2009 
New Upland Dwellers and the DENR, August 21, 2013
From Forestland to Grassland, September 21, 2012 

Charcoal Economics, February 23, 2014
On Grass Fire, April 17, 2014

Terraces Beside Narra Trees

Old and existing terraces are further stabilized and raised with new layers of organic matter, soil and stones added on them. On one side of the farm, here are a series of photos as of August 2014, mid-March 2015, and May 9, 2015, respectively.

Another angle. Photos as of August 2014mid-March 2015, and May 9, 2015, respectively.

Cleaning up litter falls that will simply be washed out by flash flood. Before and after.

Behind the big stones are these organic matter and soil. Photos as of April 04 and May 9, 2015. .

The new top soil were organic matter and eroded topsoil that were trapped by this structure. 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.

A small group of blocking stones, as of April 04 and May 9, 2015, respectively.

The big stones were transferred in building the 2nd layer of terraces. Front view of big stones, as of April 04 and May 9, 2015, respectively.

See also:
Terraces, Part 10, August 30, 2014
Terraces, Part 11, October 22, 2014
Terraces at Mahogany Area, 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