From Cogonal Brushland to Productive Orchard

By Zac B. Sarian

We were a struggling freelance writer in the early 1960s when we interviewed the late Dr. Valeriano C. Calma of UP Los Baños 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 PhP 500 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.

Ipil-ipil produces a lot of seeds for planting.

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.

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 would 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.

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 trunks held a lot of water, conserved soil moisture so that the intercropped fruit trees did not suffer so much from drought. The bananas and pineapple gave him his first income.

Growing in Harmony

Dr. Calma planted different kinds of fruit trees, including lanzones, cacao, coffee, chico, citrus, coconut, mango, caimito, and avocado. He explained that fruit trees have different requirements. Some need partial shade while others require full sun. Lanzones, cacao, and coffee, for instance, need shade. 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.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s March 2018 issue.

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