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Monday, March 02, 2009

Plant expert calls on DA to improve mango-production system

Leading plant expert Dr. Calixto M. Protacio says the country can raise its mango output by cultivating new varieties and planting smaller trees in 184,174 hectares of mango stands nationwide.

Dr. Protacio made the proposal in a lecture delivered last February 25 at a forum organized by the Initiative for Farm Advocacy and Resource Management (IFARM) and Croplife Philippines at the UP Mindanao campus in Davao City.

The expert stressed that with the massive planting of smaller mango trees with higher yields and better fruit quality, the country stands a good chance of narrowing the gap between the country’s output and that of Mexico, the world’s top mango exporter.

Dr. Protacio stressed that the country must also develop its food processing capability, noting that 90 percent of mango exports comes in the form of fresh fruits.

Thus far, the country has not yet been certified as conforming to the standards of Good Agricultural Practice (GAP), which is now a requirement of many importing countries.

Pointing out the disadvantages of large mango trees, Dr. Protacio said plantation workers are more likely to be injured in harvesting the fruits and spraying the leaves with a solution to protect the fruits from insects and pests.

“Big tree sizes constrain mango growers from implementing good agricultural practices,” he noted.

GAP, Dr. Protacio explained, covers the “collection of principles for on-farm production and post production process for safe and healthy food and non-food agricultural products considering economic, social and environmental sustainability.”

Any country that deals in food products and non-food agricultural commodities internationally are now required to possess GAP certification.

The European Union (EU) a stickler for GAP and no country can penetrate its member-nations unless they have certification.

For crop protection alone, big mango trees present workers with daunting tasks, getting wet when they spray the trees with solutions and making fruit bagging even more laborious.

They have to face risks when pruning the branches and are most likely to sustain latex burns and stain the fruits 30 seconds after picking the fruits, as a study in 2004 showed, Dr, Protacio said.

It is much easier to gain GAP certification with smaller trees cultivated under a high density planting system. Potential yields are also higher, he noted.

“Grafting should be done at the lowest height possible so that branching will start at a lower point than usual,” he explained as he credited Vir Loquias for developing the new low bark grafting method.

Scions can be induced to branch, he added, and pruning for a well-formed canopy can be done quickly under a system of smaller planting distances.

Existing orchards maintain the 10m by 10 m planting distance, compared to the Amrapali system at 2.5m by 2.5m with 1,600 plants per hectare recommended.

For Dasheri, a distance of 4m by 4 m is suggested while the Jain Irrigation Systems’ large scale high density planting (HDP) calling for 490 plants at 6m by 4.5m. At Jamnagar Reliance’s HDP of 102,000 trees, the distance is 5m by 3m and 6m by 2m spacing.

New plantations adopting HDP are planting trees at 6m by 4m, 5m by 5m, 5m by 3m and 6m by 2m spacing. (iFARM)

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