Update On UPLB Gold Durian & What’s New In Mindanao

Larry Miculob, commercial durian farmer from Davao, is excited about the expanding market for durian abroad and locally but he also has serious concerns.

On August 26, 2019 we met a guy who was so ecstatic in telling us about UPLB Gold durian that was developed in Los Baños and is now getting popular among durian aficionados. Our new friend William said that fruits of his 7-year-old tree were not damaged at all by fruit borer unlike those of an old variety, Monthong, that he also has in his backyard. He also loves the taste which he said is sweet and creamy.

UPLB Gold is fleshy, sweet and creamy. It was developed by Dr. Leo Namuco, retired professor and fruit breeder from UPLB College of Agriculture.

Curious to know more about UPLB Gold durian, we searched the Internet for more information. And this is what we got:

“UPLB Gold is a prolific bearer that yields an average of 137.3 kg per tree during seven fruiting seasons. It is an early season variety with fruits maturing from June to July. The fruit is oblong and small, weighs 1.65 – 2.5 kg. It has a thick (1.6 cm) peel which does not split easily even when fully ripe. Fruit borer damage remains only on the peel and does not penetrate the fruit. These fruits are also free from wet core and uneven fruit ripening, a physiological disorder common to Chanee and Monthong. The fruits’ aril or flesh is bright yellow, thick, very creamy and sweet with a mild aroma. Each fruit has seven to eight well-developed seeds. This variety responds very well to cleft grafting, a method commonly used to propagate durian in the Philippines. When done during the dry season, grafting success can be 90-95 percent.”

Subsequently we learned that UPLB Gold was bred by Dr. Leon (Leo) Namuco while he was a Professor and Fruit Breeder at the Department of Horticulture (now Institute of Crop Sciences) of the UP College of Agricuture at Los Baños. He registered his new hybrid as UPLB Gold at the  National Seed Industry Council in honor of his alma mater.

There are at least five good reasons why more people should plant UPLB Gold, especially in Luzon.

1. Being early maturing, its fruits will be available in June to July when durian from Mindanao will not be available yet. Durian season in Mindanao is August to October.

2. Having a mild aroma, it will click with new consumers who are offended by the strong smell of many other varieties.

3. Having a thick peel, it is less susceptible to fruit borers.

4. The fact that the peel does not easily split even when fully ripe is a big advantage. It means UPLB Gold has a longer shelf life than other cultivars.

5. The fruit is smaller than many varieties, hence it is easier to sell to consumers with limited budget.

Durian can be grown successfully in Luzon contrary to the belief of some that it only grows in Mindanao. In our own farm in Teresa, Rizal, we have been making good harvests from several trees that are at least 15 years old. We have been acquiring some new varieties, including one Musang King which is now three years old. We have UPLB Gold but are not fruiting yet.

Zactourists enjoying durian, marang, mangosteen and longkong lanzones in the farm of Larry Miculob. With Larry at the back, the local tourists include Anicia Claridad, Pablito Villegas, Judy Siy, Nancy Chua, Anita Co, Gil Claridad, Zac B. Sarian and Lea Shi. Not in photo is Jane Chen.

WHAT’S NEW IN MINDANAO – From September 5-7, 2019, we guided the Zacto Durian Eating Tour in Davao City that also included eating mangosteen, marang, longkong lanzones and pomelo. One knowledgeable durian producer and marketer we met was Larry Miculob who has a big orchard in Calinan district. He is excited by the bright prospects of commercial durian production because of the increasing demand in big markets like China and other countries. Also, more and more Filipinos are learning to eat durian so there’s a growing local market.

But Larry has his own lament. Foremost is the high cost of inputs like fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. Prices of inputs have increased tremendously while the selling price of the fruits has not increased proportionately. In fact when there is an oversupply of harvest, the price goes down to unprofitable levels. Another worry is the high cost of shipping from Mindanao to Luzon. 

Larry also has a serious concern. He said that buyers in China have a low regard for the quality of Philippine durian so that they are offering a much lower price than those from Thailand and Malaysia. This was made worse when an unscrupulous trader recently shipped three container loads of inferior fruits he bought for about P25 per kilo. Larry, however, is upgrading his facilities so he will be able to export not only fresh fruits but also quick-frozen vacuum-packed arils not only of durian but also other fruits like jackfruit.

Unli durian eating in the farm of Nhel and Mary Grace Belviz.

He and other commercial growers are also promoting the mass planting of the Puyat variety because it is one of the best in terms of eating quality and other traits. Meantime, he is developing a special selection that connoisseurs are currently willing to pay double the price of Puyat durian. Tentatively, he is calling it Safari. He believes it is a native durian that does not only taste superb but is also fleshy.

Larry Miculob and his Safari, a very special cultivar which Larry believes to be a native durian which is fleshy and with a very special taste. Durian lovers are willing to pay double the price of Puyat durian which is one of the best. Why Safari? “Para sa Pari daw.” Ask Larry why.
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