Philippines To Revive Garlic Production As Plant Breeders Use Tissue Culture To Boost Production

The Philippines is working to revive its apparently defunct garlic industry as the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB)-Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB) uses mass micro-propagation and tissue culture to produce virus-free garlic planting materials that can boost garlic production.

Breeders have partnered with the Ilocos Norte local government unit (LGU) led by Governor Imee Marcos for technology development regarding garlic planting material production.

The IPB has the capacity to distribute virus-free planting materials in pilot provinces, according to Dr. Emil Q. Javier, IPB co-founder. “MMSU and UPLB have installed capacity to produce the required basic virus-free clones. It is a matter of providing the universities the necessary operating funds to sustain operations,” he said in “What to Do with Garlic.”

Dr. Javier said that the state universities can subsequently farm out the commercial operations of tissue culture production to private seed companies or cooperatives. Thus Bureau of Plant
Industry (BPI) Director Vivencio Mamaril is pushing for the implementation of a garlic development plan.

IPB breeder Dr. Lilian F. Patena develops tissue culture for garlic production.

Tissue culture: This is a way of producing numerous disease-ree planting materials in the laboratory for mass production in the fields. Different plant parts are extracted from parent plants and grown under an aseptic and controlled environment. At
present, the mass micropropagation is done by Department of Agriculture’s (DA) attached agencies.

“The actual commercial propagation of certifed virusfree seeds will not be performed by the universities but by designated properly trained farmer seed cooperators/farmer  scientists supervised by [the] BPI and Agricultural Training Institute (ATI),” said Dr. Javier.

The success of this technology will have a signifcant impact when it comes to improving the incomes of small farmers. At a market price of 80 per kilo minus cost of 40 per kilo, margin is at 40 per kilo or a net income of 160,000 per hectare at a potential yield of 4 metric tons (MT) per hectare.

This is three times most farmers’ income of 50,000 per hectare from rice farming. Import dependent: The Philippines is virtually dependent on imported garlic, and smuggling concerns (technical and real) have been a menace for government regulators, particularly the DA’s BPI.

Imports reached 74,000 MT as of 2015 (according to the Philippine Statistics Authority or PSA), representing more than 90 percent of the total supply. The imports were valued at US$ 25.43 million.

Success: Nevertheless, with IPB’s technology for creating virus-free planting materials and its coordination with LGUs and the DA, the country has already achieved a certain level of success in raising production levels for garlic.

The Ilocos provinces reported a marked increase in production as  of the frst quarter of 2017, as the tissue culture technique “… originally developed by Lilian F. Patena and National Scientist
Ramon C. Barba assured farmers in Ilocos Norte access to clean, healthy seeds.” The Ilocos region produced, in the frst quarter of the year, 5,100 MT of garlic, contributing 72.5% of the national total. This became possible with the “…bigger bulbs harvested in Ilocos Norte as a result of the availability of more quality seeds from the local government units coupled with favorable wind during bulb formation,” reported the PSA.

MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), particularly Occidental Mindoro, had the next highest garlic production with 21.3% of the country’s total in the frst quarter,
followed by Cagayan Valley, which accounted for 4.3%. These pushed total garlic production up to 7,030 MT, higher by 3.1% compared to the 2016 output.

Suitable garlic growing sites: To achieve optimum yield in garlic production, planting should only be done during the “better” season of the year and in suitable locations. One ideal site is in Occidental Mindoro, which reports yields of 6.32 MT
per hectare, according to Dr. Javier, who is also the Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP) chairman.

“With virus-free planting materials and intensive cultural management, average yields of 5.0 tons per hectare are attainable. These should bring down costs competitive with the
20 per kilogram landed cost of imported garlic,” he said.

All resources for garlic planting should be poured into ideal provinces. These are Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Batanes, Nueva Viscaya, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, and Occidental Mindoro, where
“…farmers have experience and…need no further persuasion to grow garlic,” said Dr. Javier.

Gibberelic acid: A farmer-cooperator of the IPB was also able to achieve high yields from garlic without the use of fertilizers. Felix Valenzuela, in his 1,000-square meter farm in Cabuyao,
Laguna, got a yield of 1,600 kilos. This is effectively equivalent to 16 MT per hectare.

If, with assistance from IPB scientists, the yield is stable from this garlic variety called “Batangas Brown,” this could earn 120,000 per season for farmers. IPB breeder Dr. Lilia Patena said IPB aided Valenzuela’s farm by teaching him the use of gibberelic acid as a growth enhancer for garlic production. Gibberelic acid was earlier found to be effective in enhancing
mango growth.

The system of using gibberelic acid for garlic growth will be further tested under a multi-location trial, Patena said.

(Growth Publishing for IPB-UPLB; also published in http://

This story appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s September 2017 issue. 

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