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Phillipine: Clean strawberry runners now available for farmers

Strawberry growers in La Trinidad could expect better production and income with Benguet State University's (BSU) propagation of disease-free strawberry runners.
Farmer John It-itan said growers who are availing of BSU's clean strawberry planting materials realize improved yields of their plants, through the school's technological intervention.

It-itan heads an organization of farmers who are growing strawberries at the famous La Trinidad Strawberry Farms owned by BSU. The farmers buy tissue-cultured strawberry runners from BSU and cultivate these at the lots they rent at P10 per square meter every year. Members of the BSU Swamp Farmers Association Inc. are among the beneficiaries of the institution's three-year project aiming to distribute over four million disease-free strawberry runners to farmers by 2009.

BSU aims to mass-produce the planting material for the town's growers, through the tissue culture process. Sergio Gayao, a researcher and assistant professor at BSU, said the program was launched in 2006 to address the farmer's clamor for clean strawberry runners. Clean planting materials refer to strawberry runners, which are free from diseases and viruses. Gayao said the three-year project was conceptualized after farmers, in a forum, complained of low production and disease-infested strawberry plants.

He said the continuous use of planting materials for five to 10 years results in low production. Gayao said the project, which is co-funded by the Commission on Higher Education (Ched), plans to distribute 4,070,000 clean strawberry runners to be planted to the town's estimated 74 hectares of strawberry plantation. Ched allotted P1.28 million for the project with P500,000 counterpart from BSU. As of November 2007, BSU, through the research and extension division, distributed 154,445 strawberry runners to 76 beneficiaries.

Through tissue culture, farmers are assured of quality planting material as mother plants are subjected to laboratory tests first to ensure these are not infested with diseases, Gayao said. From the mother plants, runner tips are cut then propagated. The process takes two years, from tissue culture to planting to the fields, he said.
A strawberry mother plant produces 30 to 50 runners. The institution is propagating the Sweet Charlie strawberry variety, based on the clamor of the growers.

BSU has an existing tissue culture laboratory for the mass propagation of strawberries and other crops such as bananas and cut flowers. It has also established a nursery where runners are transferred after nine to 12 months in the laboratory area. From the greenhouse, the potted strawberry runners are transferred to the open fields where these are made available for the farmers at P2.50 to P3 each. Tissue culture increases the yield of farmers by 30 to 50 percent. Early flower initiation and better fruit shape are also attained through tissue culture, Gayao added. It-itan said tissue-cultured strawberry runners yield flowers earlier than the old planting materials he had been growing. He said BSU's tissue-cultured strawberry runners helped them a lot in realizing better yields.

The institution has 45 hectares of land devoted to strawberry plantation, but Gayao said only about five percent is planted with tissue-cultured strawberries. It-itan said farmers could start harvesting strawberry fruits three months after planting and would continue for the next five months. The farmers harvest at least twice a week once the strawberry plant started bearing fruits, It-itan said. Strawberries are sold at P50 to P60 a kilo in the market during the peak season of production, which is from February to March. Prices go as high as P150 to P200 per kilo on the months of September to December, he said.



Source: sunstar.com.ph

Publication date: 2/19/2008


 


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