They Plant The Next Crop Way Ahead Of The Last Harvest Of Their Standing Crop
An interesting farming couple in San Ildefonso, Bulacan, have a smart way of maximizing production in the 11 hectares that they are planting to vegetables the whole year round. They plant the next crop way ahead of the last harvest of the standing crop on the same piece of land.
They are the husband and wife team of Felipe and Jessilyn Ramos, 40 and 38 years old, respectively, of Brgy. Sumandig, San Ildefonso town. Felipe is an agriculture graduate who used to work for a multinational company distributing agricultural chemicals and corn and vegetable seeds. He was head of the Farmers Support Team (FST) in charge of helping farmers grow better crops with the use of improved farming technologies. While Felipe was employed, Jessilyn engaged in buying vegetables and selling them at the Clover Leaf Market in Balintawak, Quezon City.
While Felipe received a decent salary from the multinational firm, he noticed that probably the farmers that they were helping were making much more money than he from growing vegetables. In 2004, he decided to give up his employment so that he could also grow vegetables in the one hectare that they owned. In October 2004, he planted his first crop of ampalaya, tomato and pole sitao.
In that first cropping he was able to gross P300,000. It was an encouraging start. Today they are grossing much, much more. They have already bought three additional hectares with their income from vegetable farming. In addition, they are now renting seven hectares of other people’s farms which are also used for growing vegetables the whole year round.
Jessilyn is in charge of marketing. She now has two jeeps at her disposal to transport their own harvest as well as those of some of their townmates to the Balintawak market. They now grow ampalaya, pole sitao, sweet pepper (Sultan variety), Django finger pepper (for sinigang) and upo. What is very interesting is how they maximize production in the farms that they cultivate.
For instance, they don’t wait for the last harvest of their standing crop before they plant on the same farm again. For instance, before the fruits of their tomatoes start to ripen they have already planted ampalaya seedlings on the plots mulched with black plastic. The bamboo trellis is also already in place. Thus by the time the last tomato fruits are harvested, the ampalaya plants would already be growing well. In a month or so, they would already start harvesting their ampalaya. And before the last harvest of ampalaya is made, another crop, maybe sweet pepper, would have been planted, and so on.
They are able to grow their crops even during the rainy season because they elevate their planting plots and mulch them with black plastic. They make a canal between the plots for adequate drainage during the rainy season. During the dry months, they flood the canal with irrigation water to ensure adequate soil moisture and lush growth of their vegetable crops.
The couple are always on the look out for ways to maximize yield or to cut production costs, thus improving profit. One way of producing much higher yield that they found lately is the use of Durabloom bio-organic fertilizer produced by Novatech. This is processed chicken manure with Biosec, a formulation of enzymes and beneficial microorganisms.
A former colleague of at the multinational firm where Felipe used to work who is now marketing Durabloom convinced him to try the bio-organic fertilizer. At first, he was skeptical and reluctant to try because he thought that the unprocessed chicken manure mixed with carbonized rich hull that he was using was good enough.
Anyway, he relented to try the new product. He set aside 1,000 square meters of his original farm for growing Galactica ampalaya, the latest hybrid from East-West Seed Company which is resistant to the Namamarako virus. For comparison, a similar area was panted to the same variety using his usual practice of applying unprocessed chicken manure mixed with carbonized rice hull (CRH).
Felipe, Jessilyn and their workers got the surprise of their farming life. By the third week, the ampalaya fertilized with Durabloom were very much bigger and more vigorous than their counterpart in the adjoining field. What they did was to pinch the growing point of each plant so that two major vines would develop per hill. The leafy shoots of one of the vines were harvested for sale as ampalaya shoot in the market while the other vine was not topped and allowed to bear fruit.
Jessilyn related that before the vines that were not topped started fruiting, they were already able to sell P40,000 worth of ampalaya shoots from the experimental area fertilized with Durabloom. Each one-kilo of ampalaya shoots sold for P40. The income from the shoots, according to Jessilyn, was enough to cover the cost of seeds, plastic mulch and bamboo trellis.
Aside from being more lush, the Durabloom-fertilized plants have been producing much more fruits that are much bigger than those fertilized with unprocessed chicken manure and CRH. The first harvest of 120 kilos which sold for P40 to P50 kilo was made middle of November. Four days later the harvest increased to 280 kilos. By the third harvest, the 2,000 plants yielded 580 kilos, and more than 800 kilos on the fourth harvest.
On the seventh harvest, the Durabloom fertilized plants yielded 1.28 tons, 1,000 kilos of which fetched P40 per kilo while the rest, which were considered second class, fetched P30 per kilo. These were the fruits that were not straight. Jessilyn related that during the first few harvests, the fruits of those fertilized with bio-organic fertilizer were really big. Many of them weighed 500 grams apiece or more.
We visited the farm on December 19. The following day, the ninth harvest was scheduled, and according to the estimate of Gilbert Gallardo, one of the couple’s trusted workers, they will be able to harvest more than one ton again. Although the going price of ampalaya at that time had gone down to ?25 per kilo, the rate is still profitable considering the volume of the harvest. By the looks of the standing crop, many more harvests are expected from the Durabloom-fertilized plants.
Obviously, three factors are contributing to their bumper harvest.? These are the superior variety planted; adequate irrigation, and bio-organic fertilizer. What did they do to establish the plantation and what are they doing now to maintain the productivity of the ampalaya plants?
The field was thoroughly prepared, and elevated plots of 100 meters long were made and mulched with black plastic. When the bed was about six inches high, a layer of Durabloom (about half sack) was spread over each 100-meter plot. Then another layer of soil was placed over the fertilizer. Another half sack (25 kilos) of Durabloom was spread on top of the soil, then covered by another layer of topsoil. Finally the plastic mulch was installed over each bed.
The young plants were watered with two liters of Durabloom dissolved in 20 liters of water. Then when the plants were starting to flower, three handfuls of Durabloom was placed around each plant. Since the first harvest about two months from planting, a mixture of complete chemical fertilizer (16-16-16) and Durabloom dissolved in water has been applied after every harvest, which is every four days. One bag of chemical fertilizer and one bag of Durabloom are applied each time on the 2,000 hills. One big recycled sardines can (about half liter) is filled with the fertilizer solution and drenched through an opening in the plastic mulch about four inches away from the base of each plant.
Irrigation is done right before harvesting. Water is passed through the canals between the upraised beds and then drained after the beds are thoroughly soaked but not waterlogged. Draining is usually done. after 36 hours from the start of irrigation. After draining, the fertilizer solution dissolved in water is applied.
Aside from ampalaya, the Ramos couple are making money from Django finger pepper. Their standing crop at the time of our visit totalled almost 4,000 plants. On that day they harvested about 30G kilos which were sold at P30 per kilo. During certain months, the price could be as high as P70 per kilo, according to Jessilyn.
Their standing crop of Sultan sweet pepper totals more than 6,000 plants. The prevailing price during our visit was P120 per kilo. Since one plant can yield an average of 1.5 kilos during its productive life, that means a possible gross of P180 per plant.
Upo is another favorite of the Ramos couple. While the productive life is short, harvesting is done every two days, and they could harvest as many as 1,000 fruits every two days. When the fruit vegetable is in short supply, one fruit will fetch ?20, but during the time of our visit, the prevailing price was P8 per fruit. Even at that price, it is still a good money maker.
Also good money makers are Diamante Max tomato and Elegante sitao. Like in their ampalaya, they are using Durabloom in growing their other favorite vegetables. Even if they are continually planting on the same piece of land, their farming is sustainable. That’s because they rotate the crops they grow in each area and by using bio-organic fertilizer.
By Zac B. Sarian