Technologies on the sustainable production of organic sweetpotato are currently being tested in Central Luzon.
Spearheaded by Central Luzon State University’s (CLSU) Ramon Magsaysay Center for Agricultural Resources and Environment Studies (RM-CARES), the testings are part of the project titled, “Development of Package of Technology for Sustainable Organic Sweetpotato Production in Central Luzon.”
The project aims to advocate the use of organic farming system among sweetpotato growers in the region.
Funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) under the National Organic Agriculture Program (NOAP), the project specifically intends to lessen the cost of production of farmers and their usage of synthetic fertilizers.
“Sweetpotato is common among farmers in Central Luzon. Maraming farmer din ang lumalapit at nagtatanong sa amin kung may technology ba about organic sweetpotato na maaari nilang magamit,” shared Dr. Jonathan Galindez, director of RM-CARES and project leader.
Dr. Galindez explained that the increasing demand for organic produce due to its health and environmental benefits also prompted them to embark on the study.
The first component of the project evaluated five sweetpotato varieties. Among these varieties included PSB SP 30, VSP6, SPJ, Kinerots, and Japonita.
Another component of the study was the use of Trichoderma, a potent biocontrol agent used extensively to combat soil-borne diseases.
Plants with pesticidal qualities were also identified in another component. These plants were yellow ginger, kakawate leaves, and hot pepper (siling labuyo).
These plants were then blended on a 1:1 ratio with water. Extracts were fermented for seven days. In the initial trials, seven different concoctions were made, namely: yellow ginger, kakawate leaves, hot pepper, yellow ginger-kakawate, yellow ginger-hot pepper, kakawate leaves-hot pepper, and yellow ginger-kakawate leaves-hot pepper extract.
Application of the extracts or biopesticides was recommended to be done early mornings and late afternoons, when pests are most active. Population count of pests is then recorded per treatment in which the yellow ginger-kakawate leaves-hot pepper extract showed best results. Little to no damage was observed in the leaves of sweetpotato plants.
The fourth component of the project looked into proper water management practices. Results showed that those plants that were not watered at all and watered only once obviously did not produce good crops and died. Those that were watered twice or more flourished.
Galindez claimed that combining the package of technologies will produce quality organic sweetpotatoes. From an average of 24 tons under farmer’s practice, production under an organic farming system can reach an average of 33 tons per hectare.
Sweetpotato growers that earn an average of Php 35,000 per harvest then can now earn up to Php 250,000 per harvest.
Cecilio “Sonny” Antolin, Jr., farmer-cooperator of the project, attested to Galindez’ claims. “Malaking tulong talaga ito kaya nagpapasalamat ako sa mga nagbigay ng binhi at ng mga technology,” he said.
Antolin also shared the advantages and noticeable differences of growing sweetpotatoes using conventional practice and organic system during a field day-cum-seminar held recently in Brgy. San Pablo, Castillejos, Zambales.
“Sa organic, mas malaki at mas matamis talaga ang laman ng kamote. Tested na naming ‘yun. Ang kagandahan pa nga eh sa organic practice, malayo ka talaga sa sakit dahil walang kemikal na ginagamit. Effective naman pala ang organic pesticide,” Antolin shared. ### (DA-BAR)