Tuesday, March 17, 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

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Terraces at Mahogany Area

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