HOW HE MADE POOR LAND PRODUCTIVE

Ipil-ipil is a very good soil enhancer and also prevents erosion. It was the first tree that Dr Calma planted in his cogonal property.

THE LATE Dr. Valeriano C. Calma was a professor at the UP College of Agriculture at Los Baños who farmed on the side, putting into practice what he taught in the classroom.

For his achievements in both farming and teaching, he was honored as the Farmer of the Year by the Business Writers Association of the Philippines in 1963. About the same time, he received a Presidential Commendation and the Distinguished Scientist of the Year Award.

Dr. Calma started farming in 1932, shortly after he joined the faculty of UPLB. The year before, he arrived from the United States where he pursued his graduate studies as a working student. It was his job in California as a fruit picker which inspired him to establish his own orchard.

As a struggling instructor in agronomy, he did not have enough money to pay for a farm. So he borrowed P500 to pay for four hectares of virtually barren cogonal hillside. He could not afford the fertile, flat farmlands that were much more expensive.

Dr. Calma transformed the cogonal property into a productive orchard with simple common sense and practicality.

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, banana and pineapple. It was only after these crops were fully established that he planted his main crop of fruit bearing trees.

Dr. Calma explained that being a legume, the ipil-ipil was an excellent soil enhancer that at the same time prevented erosion. On the other hand, the bananas whose trunks hold a lot of water conserved soil moisture so that the interplanted fruit trees did not suffer from so much drought. The bananas and pineapples gave him his first income.

In a well planned scheme, he planted different kinds of fruit trees, including lanzones, cacao, coffee, chico, citrus, coconut, mango, caimito, avocado and others. Some were planted close to each other, sometimes just 1.5 to 2 meters apart.

Dr. Calma explained that fruit trees have different requirements. Some need partial shade while others require full sun. Lanzones, coffee and cacao, for instance, need shade. Even if they were so close to each other, they were in constant harmony. The system also provided Dr. Calma something to harvest the whole year round.

In 1955 Dr. Calma expanded his his plantation. He bought some more hilly land nearby. He planted this to citrus, calamansi, rambutan and many others. At the same time, he raised cattle among the fruit trees. But he did not raise the big breeds. He took care of small native cattle which he fondly called his biological mowers. He preferred the native cattle because they did not compact the soil.

The cattle did not only keep down the grasses. They also fertilized the trees with their urine and manure. And they also produced meat for him to sell.

In those early years, Dr. Calma was already planning cover crops between the trees like kudzu and centrosema.
These were useful in several ways. First, they covered the ground thus conserving moisture. They also prevented erosion. Being very leafy and leguminous, they enriched the soil. At the same time, they were also good animal feed.

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