WHILE GOING over articles that we have written in the past, one that dismayed us no end was about the research on lowland potatoes undertaken at the Mariano Marcos State University in Batac City, ilocos Norte.
10 VARIETIES IDENTIFIED – The research team headed by Beatriz Malab found that 10 potato varieties that had produced an average of 21 tons per hectare in farmers’ fields had been identified and ready for commercial planting. Some farmers, in fact, had produced as much as 40 tons per hectare in their trial plantings.
LACK OF PLANTING MATERIALS – As early as 1991, the package of technology was adjudged outstanding technology for Region I but planting could not be undertaken because of lack of planting materials.
SELECTIONS FROM HUNDREDS – The 10 clones were selections from hundreds of varieties from all over the world tried under lowland conditions since 1985. They produced high yields under Ilocos Norte and Cagayan conditions and also had good keeping qualities. They did not spoil under ordinary room conditions for as long as seven months.
RIGHT TEMPERATURE – The climate in Ilocos Norte and Cagayan are right for growing the lowland potatoes. They could be planted during November to February when the temperature in the two provinces go down to 16 to 18 degrees centigrade.
HIGHLY PROFITABLE – The lowland potatoes could really be profitable to grow. In 1991, a farmer from Madiladig, Laoag City, M. Domingo was able to get some planting materials and planted them on just 150 square meters. From that small patch, he was able to harvest 613 kilos worth P6,687. To grow this, he spent P1,191 and thus made P5,476.
WHAT HAPPENED? – Now, we ask. What happened to the selections that were promising? We don’t hear of anyone planting lowland potatoes in Ilocos Norte and Cagayan today. If you ask us, the money spent in undertaking the research (which must be in the millions of pesos) was a case of wasted resources. In other words, it is also a case of incompetence or lack of vision on the part of those who could have made the technology possible for profitable food production by farmers.