COGONAL PATCH TO MODEL ORCHARD
WE WERE a struggling freelance writer in the early 1960s when we interviewed the late Dr. Valeriano C. Calma of UP Los Banos for an article that was published in the Philippines Free Press. In that article we featured how he developed a 4-hectare cogonal brushland that he bought with a borrowed P500 in 1932. The year before, he had just returned from California where he pursued graduate studies in agriculture as a working student who picked fruits in private plantations.
FARMER OF THE YEAR – By the time we interviewed him, his orchard was really enviable with his fruit trees in peak production. In fact, because of his beautiful farm, the Business Writers Association of the Philippines (BWAP) honored him as Farmer of the Year in 1963. At about the same time, he received a Presidential Commendation and the Distinguished Scientist of the Year Award.
HE SUPPRESSED COGON – How did he transform his cogonal property into a productive orchard? First, he had to build up the soil and prevent erosion so that a good crop of fruit trees will grow. For a start he planted ipil-ipil, bananas and pineapple. It was only after these crops were fully established that he planted his main crops of fruit trees.
IPIL-IPIL MAKES SOIL RICH – Dr. Calma explained that being a legume, the ipil-ipil was an excellent soil enricher that at the same time prevented erosion. The leaves are also a nutritious forage for livestock. On the other hand, the bananas whose trunk held a lot of water conserved soil moisture so that the intercropped fruit trees will not suffer so much from drought. The bananas and pineapple gave him his first income.
TREES GROW IN HARMONY – Dr. Calma planted different kinds of fruit trees, including lanzones, cacao, coffee, chico, citrus, coconut, mango, caimito, avocado and others. Dr. Calma explained that fruit trees have different requirements. Some need partial shade while others require full sun. Lanzones, cacao and coffee, for instance, need shade.
SHADE PROVIDERS – On the other hand, avocado, caimito, coconut and others need full sun. So the avocados and the coconut trees provided the shade for the lanzones, cacao and coffee. Even if they were very close to each other, they were growing in constant harmony. The system also provided Dr. Calma something to harvest the whole year round.