Farm sector should tap digital agriculture, disruptive technologies to catch up with food security, raise agri contribution to jobs, GDP

Farm sector should tap digital agriculture, disruptive technologies to catch up with food security, raise agri contribution to jobs, GDP
December 29, 2018

The farm sector should transform into adapting digital agriculture and disruptive breeding technologies in order to catch up with predicted food scarcity and raise agriculture contribution to jobs and GDP.
The farm sector in Southeast Asia is the least digitized sector of the economy with only $4.6 billion invested for agriculture technology in 2016 according to AgFunder.
On the contrary, the needed investment for agriculture technology in the region totals to $265 billion per year according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Southeast Asian agriculture expert Dr. Paul S. Teng said in a consultation organized by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study & Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) that technology adoption will be a key determinant of farm growth.
Teng stressed digital agriculture, which primarily refers to Internet of Things (IoT) enables knowledge intensity in agriculture. For one, agriculture production depends highly on weather stability, and IoT provides higher accuracy of information on data-enabled agriculture through more accurate weather forecasting.
IoT—mobile computing data sensors, satellite and imagery— contributes to information on irrigation, soil condition, and topography which are critical in farming.
Technologies in financing (fintech) will also be pivotal in farm development—providing time-sensitive small loans to farmers.
“Given that time-sensitive small loans are the biggest challenge that farmers face, it’ll be interesting to see solutions such as record-keeping platforms that enable small and marginal farmers to keep records, track their farming activity and build a credit profile,” said Teng
Smart phones are instrumental in collaboration between fintech startups and traditional farm financing entities.
“This would help farmers in effectively building a knowledge base that will help them get access to favourable loan terms that correlate with their farming activities,” said Teng in the SEARCA-organized “Reshaping Agriculture & Development in SE Asia.”
New biology will also help raise food production
“Gene-Editing biotechnologies (CRISPR, TALENs, Zinc Finger Nucleases) provide capability – the ability to edit native crop genes coding for important traits and generating non-transgenic plants. Genome-edited (important) crops include, soybean, maize, wheat, rice, potato, tomato, and peanuts.”
These are among the technologies that should be invested in, according to AgFunder 2018:
• Farm Management Software, Sensing & IoT – Ag data capturing devices, decision support software, big data analytics
• Robotics, Mechanisation & Equipment – On-farm machinery, automation, drone manufacturers, grow equipment
• Novel Farming Systems – Indoor farms, aquaculture, insect, algae & microbe production (excludes consumer home grow kits)
• Novel seeds – Biotech seeds
• Bioenergy & Biomaterials – On-farm agriculture waste processing, biomaterials production, anaerobic digesters (excludes supply chain companies)
• Agribusiness Marketplaces – Commodities trading platforms, online input procurement, equipment leasing used by farmers
• Farm-to-Consumer eGrocery – Online platforms for farmers to sell and deliver their produce direct to consumers
• Miscellaneous – Land management tech, financial services for farmers
But on top of investing in technology, Teng said the agriculture sector should be directed to this transformation process toward the following:
• Managing Climate Uncertainties and Water Scarcity
• Agro-industrial Value Chains and Integration of Smallholders
• Farm Tourism and Family Farming
As global population is projected to reach to 10 billion by 2050, worldwide farm productivity should be raised by 60% in 2050 in order to close the food gap.
In the Philippines, agriculture’s contribution to GDP (gross domestic product) as of 2016 dropped to 9.7% from 19.14 in 1990.
Nevertheless, employment in agriculture was still significant at 27% of population depend on it for of 2016.
Importation in developing countries like the Philippines is still intensive to which the economy depends to sustain people’s nutrition.
“ASEAN countries produce much (top 3 for a range of agrifood products) but still depend on imports from outside region to meet needs for animal feed (soybean) and wheat . There’s still high prevalence of hunger and under-nutrition.” End (Growth Publishing for SEARCA).

Ph leads with Rockefeller University in pioneering clinical research on VCO anti-inflammatory property

Dr. Vermen M. Verallo-Rowell

Dr. Vermen M. Verallo-Rowell

December 23, 2018

By Melody Mendoza Aguiba

The Philippines is leading a pioneering evidence-based research on the anti-inflammatory property of virgin coconut oil (VCO) together with Rockefeller University.

The study is envisioned to be a multinational program. It is expanding earlier research proving VCO’s potential to be a medically-proven treatment for inflammation.

“We’ll get help from India. They have dermatologists. They are very good in research. Thailand, Singapore maybe, Indonesia definitely I can get their residents and anywhere-else so that we have validity in numbers so we can now have multinational studies,” said Dr. Vermen M. Verallo-Rowell, entrepreneurial founder of VMV Hypoallergenics.

Research such as this, much as other clinical researches pursued by VMV Skin Research Centre Clinics (VMV-SKRC), will make VCO more recognized as a medical treatment, according to Rowell.

“The best evidence studies that we doctors do is what we call randomized clinical trials,” said Rowell in “Interactive Lecture on Lauric Monoglyceride in Dermatology Application.”

The Philippines has introduced VCO to the world in 2000-2001 and remains to be world’s number one VCO exporter. But scientific researches, sought for by opinion-maker doctors and consumers alike, should establish this leadership.

The other types of evidence-based research that medical experts recognize as the best evidence-type are called “double blinded randomized clinical trials” and “meta analysis,” a review/analysis of many researches.

VMV-SKRC is completing a research on VCO’s anti-inflammatory trait that just proved VCO is far more anti-inflammatory compared to corn oil.

In September 2016, VMV-SKRC made public its “Anti Inflammatory Diet Study” on VCO and corn oil. It was funded by the government-run Philippine Institute of Traditional Health Care (PITAHC).  It was carried out in collaboration with Rockefeller University-New York.

It chose corn oil to represent long chain fatty acids and coconut oil for medium chain fatty acids. It aimed to study the oils when taken internally by patients as part of food.

One set of patients took coconut oil as part of diet, and the other set took corn oil. It is a double-blinded type of clinical trial where neither the researchers nor the patients know what type of food they are taking.

“We got regional biopsies at the beginning of the study and non regional for control.
I was stunned –when we finally opened it. The amazing thing about coconut oil is that it is so much more anti inflammatory than corn oil,” Rowell said.

Rockefeller University is also carrying out genetic studies called RNA sequencing of these two sets of patients.

Proving the anti-inflammatory quality of VCO may have numerous applications in medical treatment.

“Inflammation is the key of mechanism of diseases –whether in the skin or psoriasis, or dermatology or even acne. All of that is given by inflammation. That is the same with inflammation inside the body -–diabetes, Alzheimer’s, depression, and others,” Rowell said.

VMV has already been using coconut oil as treatment for psoriasis and other skin diseases as a far more effective cure than other treatments. For skin asthma or “hika ng balat,” coconut oil proved to be an excellent cure.

“Coconut oil practically eradicated it. Olive oil is able to do it up to 50%.”

What is good about coconut oil is it has clinical or biological mechanism of action in treatment rather than enzymatic which is how antibiotics work in the body—going against enzymes’ action.

“Coconut oil is different. It’s medium chain, and as such carbon chain penetrates through the wall in the cell membrane.”

Besides, it has very light molecular weight of 256, compared to olive oil, 857 and sunflower oil, 876. The big fatty acids cannot penetrate into the skin.

VMV-SKRC’s clinical researches on such skin treatment substantiated its claims. Rowell herself has published more than 150 articles in dermatology scientific journals.

However, she stressed the Philippines has to do more clinical trials on VCO.

“The world is watching, and people are reading researches that are evidence-based, she said.

“In the Philippines, if we are to produce more understanding by the world that coconut oil is really quite safe internally and with food, we need to convince the doctors, the academics because they are after all the opinion leaders. They are the ones who told the rest of the world that coconut oil back in the ’50s, ’60s and onwards was not good for the diet.”  Melody Mendoza Aguiba

’Value chain’study of calamansi carried out to beef up 170 MT export to UAE, Hongkong

_’Value chain’study of calamansi carried out to beef up 170 MT export to UAE, Hongkong
December 11, 2018

A “value chain study of calamansi is being carried out to beef up output and some 170 metric tons (MT) of export of fresh and processed fruits per year shipped to Hongkong, UAE, and Saudi Arabia.
The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) has supported Bureau of Agricultural Research’s (BAR) piloting of the project in Oriental Mindoro.
“There are gaps and constraints in the calamansi industry that limit its potential to increase income and generate the much-needed employment for the calamansi-growing communities in Oriental Mindoro,” according to SEARCA.
“The project will strengthen capacities of calamansi stakeholders on the improved production and postharvest handling practices, calamansi processing, and entrepreneurship.”
Value chain concept involves creating “value” from activities that have been identified to make a business more profitable. For instance, activities that increase farm sales are hiring sales agents to market a product or training farm experts on pest management practices in order to increase harvest.
Value chain studies enhance a business’s competitiveness and was introduced by economist Michael Porter in his “Competitive Advantage (1985)”.
The country’s calamansi export ranged from 20 to 35 MT in 2008 with an average yearly export of 29.5 MT in fresh fruits.
A value chain advantage may be found in processing more fresh fruits. A total of 144 MT of calamansi juice and concentrate was exported to Hongkong, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in 2013. An important consideration in this project is on expanding employment and farmer’s income from the business.
Constraints in calamansi sector’s growth include lack of good-quality calamansi seedlings; high incidence of pests and diseases; declining volume of production; huge postharvest losses; limited access to market; inconsistent quality of processed calamansi products; low prices during peak season; and lack of resources, skills, knowledge, and experience in collective marketing among calamansi farmers.
The two-year project aims to address these technical and market constraints.
It intends to improve calamansi production and fruit quality by using proven technologies and practices in integrated pest management, fertilization, off-season fruiting, and postharvest handling.
It will also support the commercialization of calamansi-based products through value chain analysis of processed products, market study, and product enhancement.
Moreover, it will also promote faculty and student exchange for R&D (research and development) and technology transfer and promotion.
The project will build on the gains of SEARCA’s action research program “Piloting and Upscaling Effective Models of Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development (PUEM-ISARD) that helped revitalize the calamansi industry of Oriental Mindoro.
SEARCA has been implementing PUEM-ISARD with Mindoro State College of Agriculture and Technology (MinSCAT) and the local government units of Oriental Mindoro since 2015.
Recently, Tokyo University of Agriculture (Tokyo NODAI) of Japan also began conducting experiments at the project site to validate the effects of off-season production technologies suitable to the growing conditions of calamansi in Victoria, Oriental Mindoro.


Calamansi is indigenous to the Philippines . The largest production is fromVictoria, Oriental Mindoro.
According to the DA-Philippine Rural Development Program, buyers prefer calamansi from Oriental Mindoro because it has a thicker rind, stronger taste, longer shelf-life, and resists weight loss.
Calamansi, or calamondin, is used primarily as juice, puree, and for souring food.
Production has been declining for 6 years from 199,675 MT and 20,956 hectares in 2008 down to 164,050 MT and 20,246 hectares in 2013.
The decline is due to the greening disease or ”huanglubin’ which decreases yield and causes death of trees, reported the Food and Fertilizer Technology Center (FFTC).
Calamansi is produced primarily from MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblom, Palawan– 6,872 hectares), Central Luzon (Zambales, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Bataan-1,734ha) and Ilocos Region (1,026ha) in Luzon.
In Mindanao, producers are in Davao Region (1,797 hectares), CARAGA (1,412 hectares) and Zamboanga Peninsula (1,077 hectares).
Yield has been dropping form an average of 9.53MT hectares in 2008 to 8.10 MT in 2013, down to an annual growth rate of -3.18.
A sizable 93% of the volume as of 2013 was used domestically for food and the rest for export.
With production decline, prices has been increasing at P23.13 per kilo in 2013 from only P13.28 per kilo in 2008. End (Growth Publishing for SEARCA).

Private sector pressed banks to allot P1.1 trillion for agro-industrial business as PD 707 mandated

Private sector pressed banks to allot P1.1 trillion for agro-industrial business as PD 707 mandated
November 23, 2018

The private farm sector has pressed the banking industry to allot P1.1 trillion for agro-industrial activities as mandated by PD 717 in order to support industrialization and poverty reduction which can be accelerated through agriculture-based manufacturing.
The Philippine Chamber of Food & Agriculture Inc (PCAFI) urged banks to abide by the Agri Agra Law that mandates banks to allocate at least 25% of outstanding loan portfolio. Of this, 10% should be devoted to credit for agrarian reform beneficiaries.
PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said there remains an estimated P1.1 trillion, equivalent to 16% of banks total outstanding loan, that is not being aptly availed of by the agriculture sector.
Out of around P10 trillion total loan outstanding of banks as of end 2017, only 14% has been released for the farm sector.
“Banks’ loan portfolio has been growing through the years but not because of real, inclusive economic progress or reduced poverty. It’s merely because real estate and other industries are growing,” he said.
PCAFI has asked the Bangko ng Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to be updated on the status of Circular 908 which set up the Agricultural Value Chain Financing Framework (AVCFF).
Two years after an issuance on Feb. 24, 2016 of the lending features (Monetary Board Resolution 360) of AVCFF, the resolution has barely raised financing for agriculture value added manufacturing.
AVCFF was designed to reduce risks of banks that are lending to agricultural production.
In the sole nature of agricultural production, risks to banks of non repayment is relatively high. Pure agriculture production traditionally suffers from losses when a weather-related calamity hits.
But through the use of the value chain schemes, risks are significantly reduced.
In order to follow through the circular’s implementation, PCAFI asserts banks should have an Agri Banking Department, much as they have mortgage banking departments that assess collateral value in real estate lending.
It is imperative for government to strictly enforce each bank’s compliance with PD 717 if it has to take the path of manufacturing-based agro industrialization.
This is the solution that Thailand, Malaysia, and other Southeast Asian countries earlier took and should be embraced too by the Philippines.
“The solution that made an impact in our neighbors’ economy is they put agriculture in the forefront of their economy. They made it a tool for poverty reduction that results in increase in farmers’per capita income,” said agro-economist Pablito M Villegas, also PCAFI director.
“Investing in food and agriculture is the surest way to reduce poverty. But banks would rather pay a fine because they do not appreciate agro-based industries and its impact in poverty reduction,” he said.
PCAFI officials believe the budget of DA is severely low at P70 billion. Even over a 10-year period, this falls below the trillion level that should be channeled in loan by banks to the sector.
Even more deplorable, this yearly DA budget already includes the entire DA bureaucracy budget. It includes maintenance and operating expense for paying employees’ salaries and wages, utilities, and other operating expense.
“In reality, only around 50% or P35 billion of this DA budget goes to capital expenditure or investments in the farm sector,” said lawyer Elias Inciong, PCAFI director and United Broilers & Raisers Association president.
Banks should open their eyes on the opportunities from the agriculture value chain businesses rather than just assess the value of the collateral or assets of the farmer-borrowers that they may foreclose once repayment fails.
“Look at my business opportunities, rather than my collateral,” said Fausto, a farming entrepreneur. He founded DVF Dairy Farm Inc which produces “Gatas ng Kalabaw.
While poverty level in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam has already gone down to the 10% level because they bankrolled their agro-industries, Philippines’ poverty rate is still at a high 30%.
“President Duterte is targeting 20% poverty level. But our neighbors Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia have poverty level at just 10%. Malaysia’s poverty is even less than 10%,” said Villegas.


BSP has issued Circular 908 as a means to channel financing to agriculture and fisheries. It taps more sophisticated financing schemes that are extended to value chain players in other related agriculture manufacturing ventures.
“By encouraging linking of various actors, players in the agricultural value chain, credit risk of smallholder farmers can be reduced,” according to BSP.
“This is expected to further improve productivity in the agriculture and fisheries sectors and uplift the lives of these marginalized farmers.”
Credit products for farmers’beneficiaries are trade receivables finance and factoring (a business’ sale of its sales contract of goods or receivables to another so as to hasten cash turnover).
There is also the warehouse receipts—farmers and related value chain enterprises receive a receipt from a certified warehouse as a collateral to access a loan.

Loan disbursements

Another AVCFF financing program is Loan Disbursement. It may be cash—completed in one transaction or in installment. It may be loan proceeds to suppliers—suppliers of farmers (for example fertilizer, seeds) are directly paid by banks in order to control the loan’s use.
Another system is the use of an anchor firm which endorses a loan release to a farmer’s entity to ensure that the machine or technology to be acquired by the farmers are the proper technology to be used. This way, rejects are reduced and productivity is optimized.
Circular 908 also provided for the Disaster Contingency Mechanism (DCM). The DCM is an immediate financing relief to a farmer who has experienced a disaster in order to recover from losses resulting from weather or related calamities.
Circular 908 also provides for accountability schemes in the value chain system by allowing factors, aggregators to become directors of agricultural businesses. Melody M. Aguiba

Govt embarks on robust “genetic diversity” program on narra, industrial tree species rattan to reverse massive deforestation

PHOTO Saving Philippine Forest Trees Through Genetic Biodversity

November 20, 2018

By Melody M. Aguiba

The government has embarked on a robust “genetic diversity” program of the endangered narra and industrial tree rattan as a commitment to conserve forests amid seemingly irreversible deforestation that threatens economic resources.

The Ecosystems Research & Devt. Bureau (ERDB) has started carrying out DNA analysis of these economically important tree species as a long term support to the National Greening Program (NGP) of DENR.

Genetic variation is the basis of evolution and the catalyst for species to adapt to ever changing environment.

“Assessment of genetic variation among and within populations is essential for the success of any tree breeding and selection programs. It holds vast potentials for the preservation of the forest ecosystems,” said Dr. Sofio B. Quintana, ERDB Director.

Six provinces– Ilocos Sur, Cebu, Iloilo, Marinduque, Nueva Vizcaya and Quezon—has so far been identified as potential sources of good planting materials for narra reforestation.

“The genetic diversity analysis showed that the 6 populations of Pterocarpus indicus Wild (narra) from the 6 provinces have good levels of genetic variation and can serve as good sources of potentially useful genes,” according to ERDB genetic experts Maria Theresa A. Delos Reyes, Gracetine D. Magpantay, Aimee G. Cagalawan, Aida B. Lapis, and Nenita M. Calinawan.

Government has deemed a top priority to conserve forests as a top economic asset as Philippines that has among the most biologically diverse flora with 5% of world’s total.

Narra’s timber is prominent among importers in Asia, Europe, US, and Australia which “accept large volumes of sawn timber at high prices US$600 per cubic meter if it were available,” according to the “Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry.”
Narra is also known for its medicinal, ornamental, and nitrogen-fixing functions.

1.5 billion trees

ERDB’s project, “2018 Genetic Diversity: A Key Component for Conserving Philippine Forest Trees,” aims to identify trees with molecular markers that indicate high survival rate as part of planting the targeted 1.5 billion trees under the NGP.

“With the increase in global average temperatures, some species of forest trees fail to cope up to such changes. With more genetic variations, it is more likely that some individuals possess alleles (alternative form of genes) that better suit the environment,” said ERDB authors Karol Josef Lucena, Jordan Abellar and Jorge Cyril Viray.

Having less genetic diversity leads to uniformity, with population having individuals less likely to adapt and survive in the changing environment.
While monoculture in agriculture is good for harvesting a good volume of a single crop, it will be a problem when a disease or parasites attack the field in the long run.

Inbreeding harm

Little genetic variation within a species impedes the process of healthy reproduction as evident by the expression of harmful traits in the offspring resulting from inbreeding (mating of genetically related organisms or in human, within one family).

Inbred trees grow slowly, are often deformed and many die suddenly and inexplicably before reaching maturity. Few inbred trees survive and reproduce in natural forest setting.

In 1890, an epidemic had spread across Panama wiping out hectares of banana production. Being genetically identical, banana plants are susceptible to the fungal disease, providing little to no resistance against the disease.

Such scenario ultimately leads to extinction of the population and eventually extinction of the species.

Genetic diversity

“Knowledge of the extent of genetic diversity in selected narra populations may be used in determining the susceptibility of these narra populations to pests like the ambrosia beetles which are the causative agent of fusarium wilt (Fusarium oxysporum),” said the Delos Reyes, Magpantay, Cagalawan, Lapis, and Calinawan in a scientific paper.

Forestry experts use molecular markers as part of effective reforestation strategy because of the “ease, rapidity and reliability in producing results.”

“One of the factors that caused delay and failure to reforestation in the Philippines is the lack of proper evaluation of individuals (trees) of known origins, which includes both morphological and molecular characterization.”

With knowledge of superior traits of trees species, the combination of superior ones will be chosen as planting materials. Among desired traits are timber quality and durability, fast growth, and disease resistance.

DNA sequence

In order for plant geneticists to tell apart genetic variations, they use segments of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) sequence of the individuals to mine them out despite the limited availability of whole genome sequences from forest trees species.

These segments of DNA are called DNA-based molecular markers which are widely used in studying genetic diversity, as well as for identification of species.

According to Abellar, ERDB biologist, after collecting the plant material (leaf, stem, or root), careful optimization of protocols follows wherein the DNA of the material is isolated.

This process is called DNA extraction. The process involves breaking the cell wall and cell membrane (cell lysis), removing the organelles, and destroying the nuclear membrane. After these processes, the “purest” DNA can be extracted.

Having a desirable amount of DNA with superior purity, molecular biologists then subject this DNA to a temperature sensitive process that produces millions of copies of it in a matter of an hour or two. This copying process is called DNA amplification or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) discovered by Nobel Prize winner Kary Mullis in 1985.

It involves a series of heating-cooling-heating the DNA.
These temperature changes allow the enzymes and other reagents to copy the target regions (molecular markers) of the DNA.

PCR is an indispensable technique known to be used in medical and clinical laboratory research including forensic science in crime scene investigations.

It also holds a potential swing in improving forensic botany for higher productivity and survivability of forest trees species and for the trees to achieve superiority in growth parameters.

Bataan, Ilocos

For rattan, the study found Bataan population holding the highest genetic diversity, therefore was rendered as a potential source of genes useful for tree improvement and breeding programs; while for Narra, Ilocos was the most genetically diverse population.

To date, de los Reyes said the diversity of five forest tree species (Narra, Benguet Pine, Bagalunga, Molave, and Ipil) are included in the study Assessment of Genetic Diversity of Priority Forest Tree Species through DNA Analysis of the Genetic Improvement of Priority Forest Tree Species for Quality Wood Production Project.

The species were selected based on the criteria stated in DAO 2010-11 “Revised Regulations Governing Forest Tree Seed and Seedling Production, Collection and Disposition”.

Using these molecular markers, the assessment of Kawayan tinik (Bambusa blumeana Schultes f.) was also completed. Results revealed that the Pangasinan population was the most genetically diverse (Delos Reyes M.A., et al., 2015).


The ERDB genetics researchers used a technology called Random Applied Polymorphic DNA or RAPD as a molecular marker in determining genetic characteristics of individual rattan trees because it is cheaper and simple to use compared to other marker technology.

Because of the limitations presented by RAPD markers, ERDB also utilized a new marker system called Simple Sequence Repeats (SSR) for its other genetic diversity studies.

Moreover, transferability of these SSR markers to progenies planted in Progeny Test Plantation of the Progeny Tests Cum Seedling Seed Orchards study is being documented.

The genetic diversity of these plantations is also being assessed.

Limuan (rattan)

The ERDB biologists had found that Limuran Calamus (rattan) in Bataan, Camarines Norte, and Quezon showed enough variation in the populations, making the 3 provinces an ideal source for Limuran rattan planting materials.

Calamus is the largest genera of rattans with 388 accepted species names. Their canes are used for furniture, walking sticks, and flooring and implement handles. Limuran rattan also has potential pharmaceutical uses with bioactive components found to be anti-inflammatory and anti-diarrhetic. Melody Mendoza Aguiba

International conference on Nutrition-sensitive Agriculture to help boost nutrition-rich food production, cut malnutrition that affect 15-25% of population

PHOTO Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture
International conference on Nutrition-sensitive Agriculture to help boost nutrition-rich food production, cut malnutrition that affect 15-25% of population
3 November 2018

An international conference on Nutrition-sensitive Agriculture (NSA) will be held in the Philippines to help boost vitamins and minerals-rich food production and cut malnutrition that’s adversely affecting 15-25% of 105 million Filipinos.
The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), in a tieup with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), will host “Strategic Approaches to Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture and Food Systems in Southeast Asia” on Nov. 7-10, 2018.
“Our food security ranking globally shrunk from rank 62 in 2011 to 72 in 2017 out of 109 countries. FAO through its Integrated Food Security Classification mapped the entire Philippines as food insecure,” according to a SEARCA NSA primer.
“Food security is continuously challenged by poor agricultural productivity brought about by climate change, environmental degradation, higher input cost, low farm income and lack of competitiveness.”
NSA is a concept that has recently emerged in light of the pervasiveness of malnutrition especially in developing countries as the Philippines.
It seeks to maximize a farming system that enhances nutritional supply especially in impoverished areas through provision of a variety of affordable, nutritious, culturally appropriate and safe food.
“It is generally recognized that addressing malnutrition requires an integrative approach in the food chain from production, processing, retail to consumption,” said SEARCA.
“Making agriculture and food systems nutrition-sensitive also requires that we have to address input quality, production, post-harvest handling, processing, retailing and consumption, and to deliver safe and nutritious foods all year round to the consumer.”
Also supporting the conference are the Interdisciplinary Studies Center on Food and Nutrition Security of the University of the PHIlippines Los Banos and Cavite State University (CvSU).
The conference will formulate polices and strategies to enhance NSA in relation to food and nutrition security.
In line with Food and Nutrition Security program in Southeast Asia, SEARCA has put in sessions on case studies on integrating nutrition into agriculture. It will focus success stories of addressing nutrition across stages of the food system.
Fisheries production—aquaponics, organic food farming, hydroponics, agricultural biotechnology, potato and mushroom production, nutrition in vegetables, plant factories in urban setting, Palaymanan, rice-corn blend for diabetics, and development of MSMEs (micro, small, and medium enterprises) are among the topics of the conference.
Dr. Marco Wopereis, Director General of the World Vegetable Center, will speak on nutritional power of vegetables; Dr. Leila S. Africa of Human Ecology-Institute of Human Nutrition and Food will present outcomes of Promoting Nutrition-Sensitive School Gardens and Feeding Programs through the School-Plus-Home-Gardens Project (in Laguna).
Dr. Wei Fang, director of the Center of Excellence for Controlled Environment Agriculture and Professor of Bio-Industrial Mechatronics Engineering of the National Taiwan University, will discuss how plant factories in Taiwan to promote food and nutrition security in an urban setting.
Other speakers are International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) Country Director Emily Monville (sustaining and scaling-up nutrition-sensitive agriculture); Rizal G. Corales, program lead, Integrated Rice-based Agribiosystems of Philrice, (Palayamanan as a strategy to promote nutrition-sensitive agriculture); and Dr. Mallikarjuna Swamy, Healthier Rice Breeding Group of the International Rice Research Institute (nutritional security through development of healthier rice).
It will be held at the Development Academy of the Philippines in Tagaytay City. (Growth Publishing for SEARCA) End
PowerPoint Presentation

SEARCA establishes capability building courses for agricultural entrepreneurs to help boost productivity in mango, abaca, cacao, herbal medicine

Investment Guide training manual
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE SEARCA establishes capability building courses for agricultural entrepreneurs to help boost productivity in mango, abaca, cacao, herbal medicine
September 28, 2018

Government research partner SEARCA has established capability building courses for trainers and agricultural entrepreneurs as part of helping boost productivity in mango, abaca, cacao, and herbal-medicinal products.

The training for trainers and farmer-entrepreneurs will beef up skills of Filipino farmers-businessmen in ensuring their farms thrive as profit-making businesses, rather than mere source of sustenance.

The course is called “Financial Viability and Profitability Analysis of New Technologies and Enterprises under the High Value Crops Development Program.”

SEARCA also supported the publication of an investment guide of the Bureau of Agricultural Research-Department of Agriculture (BAR-DA) with the same title. BAR launched the investment guide during its Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum last August 30.

“We believe that given the right opportunities, training, and innovations, farmers and fishers can be ‘agripreneurs’,” DA-BAR Executive Director Nicomedes Eleazar said.

Participants in these courses will also be trainors of agricultural entrepreneurs or support them on how to plan financial viability for businesses after training themselves first.

A higher education center formed part of ASEAN bonds, SEARCA’s major thrust is to support training of farm technologists and farm entrepreneurs as aid in agricultural progress toward ASEAN Economic Community.

It is also pushing for harmonization of skills standards of farm technicians in ASEAN through a competency certification in partnership with institutions as TESDA (Technology Education & Skills Development Authority).

It is hoped such programs will raise farm production and export of the Philippines while ensuring the future generation are lured into becoming farmers and agriculture businessmen.

Those that already completed the program include agriculture technocrats of Department of Agriculture (DA) and DA- attached agencies staff, state universities and colleges in 16 selected projects funded by DA-BAR, and farm managers.

The topics include subjects studied in Business Management courses– cost and return analysis, partial budget analysis, break-even analysis, and financial cash flow analysis.

SEARCA has supported personnel training for 16 projects of the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR).

The following are the 16 DA-BAR funded projects:

• Development of Commercial-Scale Belt-Type Dryer with Combination Far-Infrared and Convection Heating for Rapid Drying of Mango Slices
• Conservation, Evaluation, and Commercialization of Batuan (Garcinia binucao) in Region V (Masbate and Sorsogon)
• Lotus R&D for Region 3: Production Technology Generation for Food and Non-Food Products, Aesthetics, and Medicinal Purposes
• Village-level Processing, Technology Development, and Promotion of Katmon (Dillenia philippinensis) Production and Commercialization of Abaca Yarn, Twine, and its Derived Products in Region VIII Areas
• Development and Promotion of Postharvest Equipment for Carrot Processing in BAPTC Commercialization and Marketing of Sweet Potato, Adlay, Soybean & Roselle Products & By-products in Region 10
• Development and Commercialization of Sweet Potato and Potato Products Production and Processing Technologies Development and Commercialization for Organically-Grown Cucumber and Carrots in Bukidnon
• Promotion of Organic Production Technologies for Rice and Muscovado Sugar for Smallholder Farmers and Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries
• Piloting Arabica Coffee Rooted Cuttings as Plant Materials in the Highlands Macadamia Conservation, Propagation, and Commercialization in Luzon
• Promotion of Generated Cacao Technologies and Development of New Products towards Improved Livelihood
• Promotion and Commercialization of Soya Nuggets and Soya Chunks Insta Ulam Project Development and Commercialization of Tropical Fruit-based Products (Rimas Ice Cream)
• Product Improvement and Marketing Plan for Dalanghita Nectar
Philippine government-hosted SEARCA (Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture is a regional treaty organization that promotes inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development through graduate education and institutional development, R&D, and knowledge management. It has been a long-time partner of DA-BAR in research, capacity building, and knowledge management projects.
Copies of the investment guide may be availed from the DA-BAR. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba-…digital…/491397/Growth Publishing for SEARCA).

Bamboo community in Talim Island being linked to financiers, mechanizers to boost plantation income

Bamboo community in Talim Island being linked to financiers, mechanizers to boost plantation income

Bamboo product in Talim island being tranported to nearby towns
October 17, 2018

A seemingly lowly bamboo craft business has sustained the livelihood of a Talim Island community but awaits partners in mechanization and financing so as to step up into a more organized enterprise.
The bamboo stick producers of Ginoong Sanay, Talim Island, Laguna de Bay, is being linked with partners in financing and machine supply by the Ecosystems Research & Devt. Bureau (ERDB) in its hope to help them upgrade as a more profitable business.
ERDB has recommended the group’s more formal organization and increased investments in bamboo planting.
ERDB Director Dr. Sofio B. Quintana given assistance in plantation financing, micro enterprises like this in Brgy. Ginoong Sanay can grow significantly into a bigger venture.
Credit assistance in bamboo plantation and the aid of machinery will enable the Ginoong Sanay micro enterprise to supply their own raw material needs and even expand into other more profitable bamboo products.
More valued products such as bamboo beds, bamboo sofa, and bamboo table are already made by other barangays in Talim Island.
“They should establish linkage with LGUs and nongovernment institutions including the private sector for any technical and financial assistance they may need, such as the bamboo stick drying machine. They should plant more bamboos in order to sustain their supply of raw materials,” according to ERDB.
Bamboo has been proven to be a versatile crop that flourished in Talim Island even though the island has not been suitable for planting other crops.
“Talim’s craggy terrain may be hostile to other crops, but bamboo particularly the Kawayan Tinik variety grows abundantly on its slopes,” according to Ma. Vienna O. Austria and Myline O. Aparente, ERDB authors.
The Ginoong Sanay bamboo group is composed of 70 bamboo stick makers and 10 dealers. They make up 95% of the Brgy. Ginoong Sanay population. Some of them produce their own bamboo poles and market their own goods.
The sticks they make are used for barbecue, banana cue, fishballs, and other finger/street foods.
Fish ponds and fish cages also use the bamboo poles that they sell.
The Brgy. Ginoong Sanay bamboo enterprise started with the production of “kaing,” the native-looking, nature-friendly equivalent of plastic crates used as container for hauling fruits and vegetables.
“Because kaing slowly became unpopular due to the influx of plastic containers and its production requires more bamboo poles and a higher capital, kaing producers shifted to bamboo stick making in the 1960s with barbeque,” said Austria and Aparente in Canopy International.
Income from bamboo stick making generated resources for food, school allowance, transportation, and tuition fees of the producers’ families.
“A meager income is not an issue for them as long as it sustains their daily necessities.”
Majority of them, 90%, have no alternative income source but rely solely on bamboo stick making for sustenance. Extra income comes from fishing, fish and food trading, construction work, laundry and “sari sari” store jobs.
A bamboo farmer sells the raw material for P62 per pole.
The bamboo traders among them earn a higher average of P6,640 per month on top additional P3,685 per month for stick making.
In a month, a bamboo stick maker may earn as much as P6,400 to a low of P1,000, bringing average to P2,776 monthly.

As they grew short of raw material bamboo within their barangay, they sourced bamboo poles from nearby barangays. This somehow benefited people in Malakaban, Tabon, Kinaboogan, Talim, Binitagan, and Sapang. Most of their supply now comes from other areas, leaving only 27% sourcing from Brgy. Ginoong Sanay.
The bamboo trade has been a family tradition with each member playing roles in harvesting, hauling, cutting, slicing or splitting of bamboo poles, sharpening into small javelins, drying of the stocks, cleaning or polishing, counting, bundling, and selling.
Right now, the dealers serve as financiers for the stick production. The products are sold to the market on a consignment basis—paid to farmers and producers upon sale completion. They are distributed to market stalls throughout Binan, Sta. Rosa, Cabuyao, Calamba in Laguna, Bicutan (Taguig), Alabang (Muntinlupa), and Antipolo.
In relation to expanding bamboo supply in Rizal, the province that largely covers Talim Island, ERDB has partnered with Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc (PSFI) on clonal nursery operation and bamboo propagation.
As a support to the National Greening Program, PSFI will help propagate quality planting materials (seedlings) of indigenous trees including bamboo propagules.
ERDB and PSFI have just opened PSFI’s clonal facility and forest nursery for bamboo in Brgy. Malaya, Pililla, Rizal last July 26, 2018.
“The regard for the environment is very high in Pilipinas Shell’s agenda. We see a very good alignment on what Shell wants to happen with what the government wants to happen,”said Cesar G. Romero, Shell Philippines country manager.
The clonal nursery will yield about 30,000 bamboo seedlings for 9 to twelve months.
“That’s a big jump from what we produce in our existing nurseries,” said PSFI Executive Director Edgardo Veron Cruz said.
PSFI’s bamboo propagation facility will grow select Philippine bamboo species.
“This is an initial move and what excites me also is the inclusion of bamboo propagation for two things – one, bamboo can absorb 3-4x carbon dioxide compared to other species. And also, bamboo provides plenty of livelihood opportunities,” said Cruz.
ERDB carried out a training last Sept. 12 to 14 on “Tree Clonal and Bamboo Propagation Technology and Nursery Operations” at the PSFI Training Center in Pililla, Rizal.
The training also delved on technical and managerial skills needed to run the clonal facility.
The PSFI-ERDB training included the following topics:
• Resource Material Selection by Forester Faith Anne Manarin
• Hedge Garden Establishment & Management
• Concept and Practical Application of Rooting Hormone
• Clonal Propagation Technology by Forester Alexander John Borja
• Bamboo Propagation and Nursery Management Practices by Mr. Nelson Levi M. Lantican
• Forest Tree Seed Center Operations Manual by Forester Rosalinda S. Reaviles
• Hi-Q Vam 1 Application Techniques by Ms. Famela J. Bonsol.
The training observed a “hands-on demonstration” mode and also led a target and action planning workshop.
Romero said environmental upliftment is a top priority for the company having engaged in conservation of the Tubbataha Reefs, coastal cleanups, mangrove tree planting, community waste management programs around its distribution terminals nationwide, and, tree planting of endemic species in Mt. Banahaw, Quezon as part of its Carbon Sink Management Program. (Growth Publishing for ERDB). End

Ph to tap huge ocean carbon stock potential, to sequester significant pollutant CO2
September 15, 2018

The Philippines is tapping its huge carbon stock potential from its ocean’s seagrasses as it has one of world’s longest coastlines that may sequester significant pollutant CO2 from fossil fuel-run vehicles.
The Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) has embarked on a basic research on carbon sequestration potential of seagrass beds.
It was found out that a 50-hectare seagrass meadows in Lian, Batangas can capture 97 megagrams of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent to the annual emission of 20 cars.
The blue carbon study likewise involves identification of seagrass species that have high carbon sequestration capacity to offset emissions.
“Some people think seagrasses are mere colonizers and can quickly appear and disappear. Others think that planting of mangroves on seagrass beds is all right. As such, our objective is to unfold another important ecological value of seagrasses in the ecosystem,” said Jose Isidro Michael T. Padin, ERDB supervising science research specialist.
The Philippines was identified by to have sixth largest coastlines in the world with 36,289 kilometers– being an archipelago.
In relation to this, ERDB, as the research arm of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), is conducting blue carbon study in other sites—Alabat Island, Quezon; Coron, Palawan; Catanauan, Quezon; and Masinloc, Zambales.
“We’re just waiting for the complete plant tissue carbon content datasets for us to estimate the captured CO2 in other study sites,” Padin said.
ERDB Director Dr. Sofio B. Quintana said ERDB has a thrust to provide DENR the research backup on seagrasses as these have important economic and ecological value. However, such value may sometimes be underestimated due to their indirect nature.
Seagrass experts led by Bryan M. Dewsbury noted these benefits are as direct food source, nursery function (commercial fishes, coral reef fishes and tourism revenue), carbon sequestration, wave energy reduction (erosion control and coastline integrity, coastal real estate value), sediment stability, and improved water quality (from its use of marine nutrients).
Presently, the Philippines does not have any mature technology on seagrass rehabilitation.
Padin said that seagrass transplantation studies have been conducted in the 1990s by academic research institutions in the country, but those undertakings might have gained little success.
“Seagrasses occur in shallow tidal flats, where they are exposed during low tides. Some species can grow down to depths of 12 to 60 meters” he said.
Seagrasses are sometimes found growing together with corals –making up coastal resources that have huge ecological value in preventing coastal erosion, breaking the “power of the waves during storms, tsunamis” (WWF).

Economic value

In Australia, economic value of seagrass beds has been placed at $103.74 million per year owing to the market price of species as that use these as their home based on productivity model.
“The rhizomes of seagrasses hold the sediment in place and thus reduce the flux of nutrients from the benthos into the water column. This lessens the probability of (potentially pollutant) algal blooms that can cause permanent seagrass loss,” said Dewsbury.
These also have economic value from medical raw materials.

Manila Bay

As part of enhancing Philippines’ coastal resources, ERDB is also providing basic knowledge for government on the coral reef status within the Manila Bay Area (MBA).
“People say there are no more corals in MBA, but the recent coastal resource map of NAMRIA tells us that corals can still be found in Naic (Cavite), and Corregidor (Bataan). We just completed validation of corals in Maragondon (Cavite) and Ternate (Cavite),” Padin said.
NAMRIA stands for National Mapping and Resource Information Authority.
The coastal area of Cavite has nearly 290 hectares of coral reefs and ERDB is currently determining the percentage of living corals and population of other organisms in those reefs.
“We’re also trying to determine what to prioritize for protection in areas that can be classified as MPA (Marine Protected Area) so we know where to put the core of the ‘no touch’ zone,” said the ERDB resource person.


The sustainability of seagrasses have been threatened by some human activities such as heavy dredging from construction works, grounding of vessels and motorized boats, release of chemical-filled effluents from human activities, and overfishing.
The fact that 40% of the world’s population live in coastal areas pose threats to seagrass meadows, according to Dewsbury and co-authors in “A Review of Seagrass Economic Valuations: Gaps and Progress in Valuation Approaches.”
The seagrass itself has direct use as raw material for “thatching roofs and making sound proof recording studios” owing to its high silica content, although seagrass capture has been prohibited in some countries due to their value.


Seagrass beds are nursery for juvenile of commercial fishes. They protect small fishes from large predators.
“They are feeding grounds for marine species that inhabit coral reefs in their adult stages…”
Seagrass beds keep sediments through their rhizome structure, reducing siltation.
“The resulting water clarity (from seagrasses) is very important for the seagrasses themselves who are light dependent, but is also important for sometimes adjacent coral reef ecosystems, that depend on high light incidence to survive,” Noted Dewsbury.
“A seagrass die-off in Florida Bay in 1990 resulted in the partial death of coral in the Florida Keys reef tract.”
Their water purifying function cannot be undervalued.
“Seagrass root structure keep water column transparent allowing corals to benefit from high light incidence, necessary for its survival (Rogers, 1990). Seagrasses also house meiofauna that are a food source for some diurnal reef fish species that leave the reef tract to feed in the seagrass beds at night (Robblee and Zieman, 1984).
Seagrass beds also have recreational fisheries value– snorkeling, SCUBA diving, and boating. (Growth Publishing for ERDB)

Biotechnology crop area down heftily 21% due to fake Bt corn seeds


By Melody M. Aguiba


Production of biotechnology crops in the Philippines fell heftily by 21% to 642,000 hectares due to the proliferation of counterfeit Bt corn seeds that had taken up an estimated 10% of the market for registered seeds.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA) reported that while biotechnology area globally sustained growth by 3% to 189.8 million hectares, the local market fell as seven companies are reportedly involved in fake seed production.

Yet, the Philippines is still now one of world’s largest biotechnology producer at thirteenth place.

Monsanto, the pioneer biotechnology developer of Bt corn, the only genetically modified (GM—or biotechnology) crop commercialized in the country, is continuing to seek Department of Agriculture’s (DA) assistance in stopping fake seeds production.

“Under the regulations, only registered seeds may be distributed to the market.  Presence of counterfeit seeds is a disincentive to technology developers that have put in their investments,”said Gabriel O. Romero, Monsanto regulatory affairs chief, said in a press briefing.

Aside from the concern on fake seeds, ISAAA Vice Chairman Paul S. Teng said governments, especially developing countries like the Philippines, should improve other regulations in GM crops.

One major concern is the need to speed up approval of biotechnology crops in order to arrest opportunity losses placed at cost of $1.5 trillion by 2050 in low and lower middle income countries.

“Governments are concerned on the safety, access and profitability of biotech crops, as well as local interests on biodiverisity protection and trade competitiveness.  Hence, regulations become stringent which stifle access of farmers to the technology and its economic benefits,” noted ISAAA.

“Suppression of the technology in Africa is equal to $2.5 billion from 2008 to 2013.  Delays in Golden Rice release in India alone costs $199 million per year.  This is in the form of health costs. This is also hurting education because health is most important for learning in early childhood.  It impacts cognitive development,” Teng said.

The non-adoption of Bt eggplant in India is costing it $500 million per year.

Biotechnology crops commercialization approval have slowed under certain conditions as some sectors fear an adverse effect on health and the environment as genes are transferred from one species to another under GM.

Breeding experts asserted though that GM has extremely strict regulatory policy especially in the Philippines where GM crops go through scrutiny for adverse health effects like allergenicity and toxicity.  These also go through testing on effects to the environment and biodiversity and substantial equivalence (comparison to non-GM crops in nutrient content).

Teng stressed that benefits to ecosystem of GM crops is huge with 183 million hectares saved from destruction due to higher yield from these crops that require  a smaller area for a bigger yield.

GM crops have also cut carbon dioxide emission equivalent to 16.7 million cars off the road.  There is also a reduction of use of insecticides-pesticides by 18.4% from 1996 to 2016.


Moreover, gains of farmers have grown by $186.1 billion in the form of increased yield and income largely from Bt corn, GM soybean, Bt cotton.  These have helped 16 to 17 million small farmers globally and their families totaling 65 million.

Teng also cited opportunity costs of non-adoption of biotech canola in Australia is estimated at $377.9 million.