WE CAN GROW CABBAGE IN BICOL
By Reynaldo R. Radan
After harvesting rice in September, many Filipino farmers let their fields remain ideal until the next rice cropping period. For two months – from October to November – they let weeds take over their fields. Vicente Lorete, an enterprising farmer-businessman who is the Planters Products dealer in Daraga, Albay, considers this a waste of time and resources. He thinks that farmers everywhere should utilize their fields during the turnaround period to increase their productivity and income.
In late 1979, Lorete decided to plant a short-season, cash crop between two rice cropping seasons. And he decided on cabbage. This raised many eyebrows because few Bicolano farmers had tried growing cabbage and those who did didn’t meet with so much success.
But Lorete was undaunted. He knew of a heat-tolerant cabbage variety. He had also heard that farmers in some lowland provinces had successfully produced cabbage on a commercial scale. If Bicolano farmers could grow cabbage, he reasoned they would earn a big profit between croppings of rice. “Besides,” says Lorete, “Daraga is a vegetable area, and I knew an energetic farmer who was willing to plant cabbage under my supervision.”
The farmer was Sofio Lorilla, Lorete’s farmer cooperator in his Planters Products demonstration farm for rice, and who had placed second in the regional outstanding farmer of the year tilt. “The first time I saw his field,” says Lorete, “I thought he was growing weeds, not rice. Now he’s producing record rice harvests- 276 cavans per hectare during the last season – and is aspiring for the national OFY award.”
He convinced Lorilla to convert his farm into a demonstration site for cabbage after the rice harvest in September. Another farmer, Agapito Aidalla, whose one-hectare field adjoins Lorilla’s, said he wanted to participate in the demonstration. Thus, two hectares would be devoted to the project.
The area is irrigated, and is an ideal demonstration farm site because it’s located that many people can see it. It is in the heart of the town of Daraga and is very close to two places where people converge frequently: the public market and the cockpit.
The goal of the Planters Product farm demonstration program is show to the farmers in a community the benefits they can derive from using scientific agricultural practices. All company dealers implement this program by putting up demonstration farms for rice, corn, vegetables, and other crops. They advance their farm-cooperators’ input requirements, which are payable after harvest. Planters Products and government agriculturists supervise the farmers to make sure that they ise only modern agricultural methods.
In addition to fertilizer and pesticides, Lorete supplied Lorilla and Aidalla with seed of the cabbage variety called F1KK Cross, which he bought from a seed supplier in Binondo, Manila for Php 180 per can. F1KK Cross, a hybrid, cab be planted in both lowland and highland farms. It has dark-green leaves with purple pigmentation on the stem, petiole, and mid-vein, and forms a flat, compact head. It matures three months after seeding, or 60 to 70 days after transplanting.
Lorilla and Aidalla prepared their planting materials before the rice harvest. They made a seedbed measuring two meters wide and three meters long, or large enough to accommodate a can of seed. They sowed cabbage seed on this bed.
Immediately after harvesting rice, they plowed the field, harrowed it, plowed it again, and then made plots. They transplanted the cabbage seedlings in the field 30 days after sowing at a distance of 5o centimeters between plants and rows. At this spacing, they obtained a plant population of around 20,000 per hectare.
The field has a clay-loam soil, with a pH value of 6, which is just right for cabbage. Nature helps keep the field always fertile. It’s at the foothills of Mayon Volcano, which occasionally showers it with potassium-rich ashes, and it is beside a creek which periodically overflows its banks, layering the field with sediment.
However, to supplement the nutrient supply in the soil, and to ensure a very high yield, the farmers applied fertilizer. For demonstration purposes, they fertilized one-half of the field with 16-20-0, and the other half with 14-14-14. They applied 16-20-0 at the rate of five bags per hectare, and 14-14-14 at four bags per hectare five days before transplanting and again five days after transplanting. “The farmers dissolved the fertilizer in water so that the plants could set at it easily,” says Lorete.
The farmers took every precaution to protect the crop from pest, especially leaf-chewing insects that could seriously damage the crop during rainy days. “If you don’t check infestations on time,” says Lorete, “The cabbage heads will be full of holes in just three days.”
Lorilla and Aidalla regularly sprayed the crop with Brodan and Bionex, pesticides sold by Planters Products, to protect it from the diamond-back moth, a serious cabbage pest.
They also irrigated the cabbage crop whenever necessary, using the gravity irrigation method. As mentioned earlier, the field is near a creek and is assured a year-round supply of irrigation water.
Proper crop care yielded excellent, inspiring results. For the first time, other farmers in Daraga saw cabbage growing on a commercial scale in the area. Cabbage in plots fertilized with 16-20-0 grew better than that fertilized with 14-14-14.
LORILLA and Aidalla harvested their crop in December 1979 in the presence of town officials, government farm technicians; Planters Products extension services advisors, neighboring farmers, and the editor of this magazine. “In two hectares,” says Lorete, “the farmers produced cabbage worth P 20,000. Their harvest would have been bigger. Three typhoons hit the area when the crop was at the seedling stage; these badly affected the crop growth.”
The two farmers easily sold their crop. A vegetable trader from Samar bought all their harvest at P2 a kilogram. “We thought the price would go up after the typhoons and the price would increase would compensate for the reduction in yield,” says Lorete. “The price went up indeed, but not too much.”
Lorete adds that the farmers produced their crop at the cost of around P 3,000 per hectare. The biggest expense item was chemical pest control; Lorilla and Aidalla spent a total of P 1,000 per hectare for pesticides , after deducting expenses, they were left with a net profit 0f P7,000 per hectare. For the farmers, that’s a substantial income indeed, considering that it was earned in less than three months.
The results of the demonstration farm showed that farmers can reduce another crop during the month turnaround period between rice cropping seasons, and that composed an ode expresses his elation on the success of the demonstration farm.
Aside from the benefits that farmer-cooperators have from the demonstration, Lorete elated by the new interest in the cabbage in Daraga and Legaspi. “Many people have visited the farm to learn how the cabbage is grown,” Lorete says. “These include member civic organizations like the Kiwa schoolteachers, students, troop from the local Philippine Constabulary command, and cockfight aficionados. The farm is a show window of cabbage culture in the area.
It is also a show window of cooperation. According to Lorete, the private and government section joined hands in establishing the demonstration farm. For instant, Ramon Salire, a well known broadcaster in Bicol, promoted his radio program. Bonaobora, the provincial program officer, and Maning Osma, supervisor of the Gulayan sa Kalusugan, helped push the project.
Extension workers of the Bur eau of Plant and Industry worked with the farmer-cooperators, teaching the effective methods of applying fertilizer and pesticides. Segunda Llabore says that she and other technicians visited the demonstration once-sometimes two- a week to assist two farmers. Domingo Naz and other farm management technicians of the Bureau of Agricultural Extension share their expertise with the farmers.
Lorete and his farmer-cooperative hoping they will get the same cooperation in their next project.
In 1980, they plan to introduce other short-season crop in the area. They’re now studying the feasibility of growing watermelon, when they are convinced also has good prospects in Bicol