STRAWBERRY THRIVES IN BICOL HOT TOWN / AGRIBIZ GRAD GROWS LOWLAND STRAWBERRIES



[LOWLAND STRAWBERRY Strawberry plants are thriving not just in Benguet’s cold climate, but also in a tropical one in Ocampo town in Camarines Sur. An agribusiness graduate has successfully propagated the plants in a lowland farm, including green apples and tangerine, and claims that his fruits are sweeter. JUAN ESCANDOR/INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON]

OCAMPO, CAMARINES SUR, APRIL 15, 2013 (INQUIRER) By Juan Escandor Jr. Inquirer Southern Luzon - He’s a green thumb par excellence in these parts.

Agribusiness graduate Leonardo Libreja successfully propagated strawberry in the lowland of this town, demonstrating that the plant can thrive in a hot climate and bear fruit “sweeter” than those found in the Mountain Province.

It has been a common belief here that plants thriving in cold climate, such as strawberry, apple and tangerine (a citrus fruit similar to the mandarin orange) will barely survive in a tropical climate like in Ocampo town, northeast of Naga City.

Using a marcotted specimen from Hawaii, Libreja, 34, was also able to plant green apple and tangerine, and make them thrive and bear fruit on his farm. He plans to produce commercially the green apple and tangerine.

Marcottage is a method of propagation that induces a shoot or branch to take root while it is still attached to the parent plant.

University of Hawaii

Using a Hawaiian variety of strawberry he brought here after training from 2003 to 2005 at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at University of Hawaii Minoa, Libreja took seven years to perfect the “acclimatization” of the variety that he is now starting to mass-produce.

Acclimatization is the process by which a plant is gradually made to adjust with the weather until it becomes used to it.

Libreja said what he did was to expose the strawberry plant to the heat of the sun in varying duration until he was able to create shoots that could withstand the hot climate.

Since the breakthrough, he has been able to produce the kind of strawberry plants that can thrive here and sell these to farms in Camarines Sur and Albay.

Farm boy

Libreja, who grew up on a farm and has loved cultivating crops, said he enjoyed spending long hours in backyard experiments clad in shorts, old shirt and flip-flops.

Farm work eventually became a passion that helped him unlock the secrets of raising strawberry.

After graduating in 2001 from an agribusiness course at Camarines Sur State Agricultural College (now Central Bicol State University of Agriculture), he told his father that he would concentrate on farming.

Two years later, he transformed their farm into an integrated system, complete with aquaculture production and innovative propagation of vegetables on bamboo trays that touch pond water.

He combined these with the planting of ornamental plants to complete the classic “bahay kubo”ť concept that won him the most outstanding young farmer honors in Bicol in 2003.

Through initiatives of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Libreja was granted an 18-month training in farming in Hawaii where he learned different skills in propagating crops and ornamental plants.

“I learned hydroponics farming, use of drip irrigation and several other techniques in propagating plants scientifically,”ťhe said.

At the end of the 18-month training, Libreja obtained shoots of Hawaiian strawberry and grapes, and marcotted green apple and tangerine that he brought to the Philippines with help from the DA.

Excited to prove he could raise plants that could thrive in a different climate, Libreja planted green apple and tangerine in his farm in Barangay (village) Binit in this town, employing the same process of acclimatization that has helped the plants survive, thrive and bear fruit.

Steady income

But his most important discovery and creation was his success in propagating strawberry through commercial production of fruit-bearing plants, a feat that has been providing him with steady income since December last year.

Libreja sells ready-to-bear-fruit strawberry plants for P300 per plastic bag, an enterprise which he foresees would give him long-term income.

He said he would also branch out to propagating ready-to-bear-fruit grapes in plastic bags and other plants like an herb-like plant called stevia whose leaves are sweeter than sugarcane.

The stevia plant, which Libreja cultivates in his small garden store by the highway, has a distinctive sweet taste when chewed.

He said the garden store where he was cultivating his strawberries would be computerized this year through the installation of an electronic system that would control and monitor the irrigation of his plants.

Garden store

Libreja envisions a garden store where the plants he would sell differ from the other products sold like grafted roses with different colors in each branch or a citrus tree with different branches bearing different fruits.

He said he so mastered grafting such that 98 percent of his creations were surviving and thriving.

Libreja sees himself as becoming the sole distributor of heat-resistant strawberry seedlings with the increasing number of farms adopting his crops for wider commercial use.

FROM BICOMAIL

Farmer makes strawberry thrive in hot CamSur town April 11, 2013 by bicolmail in Top Stories By Juan Escandor Jr.

OCAMPO, Camarines Sur—Leonardo Libreja, 34, defied beliefs when he successfully propagated strawberry here in the lowland of this town thriving in hot climate and bearing fruits sweeter than those found in the Mountain Province.

Commonly, it has always been a belief here that plants thriving in cold climate like strawberry, apple, and tangerine will not thrive in tropical clime like here in this town northeast of Naga City.

With a green thumb and a passion for farming, the agribusiness-graduate Libreja unlocked the secrets of raising strawberry in the yard through experimentation.

Using Hawaiian variety of strawberry that he had brought here after his training in farming at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at University of Hawaii Minoa from 2003-2005, it took him seven years to perfect acclimatization of the breed that he is now starting to mass produce.

Librejo explained that acclimatization is the process by which the plant is gradually made to adjust with the weather until it becomes used to it.

He narrated that what he did was to expose the strawberry plant to the heat of the sun in varying duration until he was able to create shoots that withstands and thrives with the heat of the sun.

Librejo said that from there he started producing strawberry plant resistant to the heat of the sun which sells to farms in Camarines Sur and Albay.

Clad in shorts, old shirts, and flip-flops, this passionate farmer revealed he grew up in the farm and loved cultivating crops and enjoyed experimenting since he was a kid.

After graduating agribusiness at the Camarines Sur State Agricultural College (now Central Bicol State University of Agricute) in 2001 he told his father he will concentrate in farming.

Within two years he was able to transform their farm into an integrated system complete with aquaculture production, innovative propagation of vegetables on bamboo trays that touched the pond water, and planting ornamental plants to complete the classic “bahay kubo” concept that won him the most outstanding young farmer in Bicol.

Through the initiative of the Department of Agriculture, Librejo was granted 18-month training in farming in Hawaii where he learned different skills in propagating crops and ornamental plants.

He said he learned hydroponic farming, use of drip irrigation and several other techniques in raising plants scientifically.

At the end of the 18-month training, he made sure to obtain seedlings of Hawaiian strawberry, green apple, grapes, and tangerine which he brought to the Philippines from Hawaii with help from the DA.

Excited about to prove he can raise plants thriving in a different climate, Librejo planted green apple and tangerine in his farm in Barangay Binit in this town that he said survived and are now thriving.

But his most important discovery and creation, if you may, was his success in propagating strawberry which commercial production of fruit-bearing plants that provides him steady income since December last year.

Librejo sells for P300 per ready-to-bear-fruit strawberry plant planted on plastic bags as he foresees steady income through the production of heat-resistant strawberry plant that once believed only thrives in cool climate.

He disclosed that he will also branch out to propagating ready-to-bear-fruit grapes in plastic bags and other plants like an herb-like plant called stevia which leaves that are sweeter than sugarcane.

Indeed, the stevia plant Libreja cultivates in his small garden store along the highway has a distinctive sweet taste when chewed.

He said the garden store where he cultivates strawberry will be computerized within this year wherein he will install electronic system to control and monitor irrigation of his plants.

Libreja envisions a garden store where the plants he will sell differ from the other products sold like grafter roses with different colors in each branch or one citrus tree with different branches bearing different fruits.

He said he has mastered grafting that 98 percent of his creations survive and thrive.

Libreja sees himself as the sole distributor of heat-resistant strawberry seedlings when more farms adopt his crop for wider commercial uses.


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