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Bag And Prune Your Pummelo

One of the most upbeat gentleman farmers we met recently is Rene Florencio, a mechanical engineer who used to manage a well known machinery firm based in Makati. After his retirement, he bought a 20-hectare raw land in Tarlac City which he planted to mango and pummelo.

He is particularly excited about his pummelo because they are so fruitful and with the cooperation of Mother Nature (no strong typhoons, please), the pummelos are going to be sure money makers. He is proud of the fact that his variety is one of the best in the market. But the fruits have to be protected from pests, especially the fruitfly. One very practical way of protecting his fruits from fruitfly damage is by bagging them as soon as they are about the size of a chicken egg.

Rene uses cloth material for bagging. Each bag has a draw string so that it is very easy to install as well as to remove when it is necessary, like when he wants to check the condition of the fruit. A thin cloth material that will not retain rain water during rainy days is used. One bag costs P5 but that is a small expense if one considers the value of the fruit that is not damaged by fruitfly. In the Metro Manila market, good quality pummelo fruits usually sell for P140 a kilo.

Bagging the fruits is just one of several ways of ensuring the good eating quality of the fruit. That’s one reason why he invited Dr. Pablito P. Pamplona to take a look-see of his pummelo trees and give some pointers to his workers. We went with him last Monday, July 5.

One of the important pointers that Dr. Pamplona stressed is proper pruning of the trees. The pummelo trees in Rene’s farm are five years old and are in their second year of commercial production. Proper pruning means removal of the weak branches inside. The inside of the tree should be clear. Overlapping branches should be avoided. To make sure that the trees are fruitful, the water sprouts, the robust new branches that arise in the inside trunk and branches should be removed.

Dr. Pamplona emphasized that pruning should be done every two weeks or so. While the workers go around the plantation, they should watch for the emergence of water sprouts. As soon as they emerge, they could be easily removed by hand.

Application of the right fertilizer at the right time was also emphasized by Dr. Pamplona. In their book, the recommendations are general. It is important, he said, that the farm manager in charge of fertilizing should take a look at the status of the tree. For instance, if it is time to induce the trees to flower and the trees have a lot of healthy leaves, there’s no need to mix urea with the complete fertilizer to be applied. Maybe, only complete fertilizer (14-14-14) should be applied. He also emphasized the use of organic fertilizer which will help retain moisture, especially during dry periods.

Also, the fertilizer should be applied in the right spot. In the case of the five-year-old pummelo trees, one meter from the base of the trunk is just right. The fertilizer should be buried in four holes equally distanced around the trunk. Don’t broadcast the fertilizer because most of its nutrients will just evaporate.

By Zac B. Sarian