Pineapple, scientifically known as Ananas Comosus Merr., is one of the country’s most popular fruits. It is also one of the top earners of foreign exchange among the country’s agricultural commodities.

The fruit contains water, carbohydrates, substantial amount of Vitamin C and potassium, and other nutrients.

Several varieties of pineapple are available in the Philippines. One is the Smooth Cayenne or Hawaiian, which is the heaviest, most popular, and the best for canning. The Queen or African Queen, or Formosa is the sweetest. The Native Philippine Red or Red Spanish is cone-shaped and considered of medium quality. It is also grown for its fiber. The Cabezona is the largest, measuring approximately 8-12 inches long when fully matured. Other varieties include the Buitenzong or Java, Sugar, Loaf, and Abakka.

Pineapple is eaten fresh, and served sliced, chunked, or as juice, or candies. Pineapple oil or essence is also used as flavoring for confectionery. Meat dishes such as curries become tastier with the fruit of the pineapple added. Chutney is another form of preserving the fruit. Nata de piña is a gelatinous product of the fermented fruit pulp which is eaten by as dessert or mixed with fruit salad, or halo-halo – a delicious mixture of various sweets.

In addition to its nourishing uses, pineapple has long served medicinal purposes in folk medicine. It was found to arouse appetite while the unripe fruit was effective as a diuretic or contraceptive, and in the expulsion of intestinal worms. Some scientists found in its leaves a possible cure for venereal diseases.

The crown or leaves of the plant also serves as raw material for wall paper and furnishings. The waste from canning can be further processed into animal feed.

But the most remarkable non-food use of the pineapple, which is associated only with the Philippines, is the fabric woven from the fibers extracted from its leaves. The introduction of the pineapple plant with the coming of the Spaniards did not take long before its potential as fiber was tapped by the natives who had been weaving various fibers from other plants, including cotton and silk. The crude and difficult process of weaving the pineapple fibers produces fine and elegant fabric that is usually enhanced with embroidery and can hold its own beside other beautiful fabrics produced elsewhere in the world.

Soil and climatic requirements 

Pineapple thrives over a wide range of soils and climatic conditions, but the plant grows best at elevations of 150 to 240 meters above sea level with a temperature of 24-30 degrees Centigrade that should be relatively uniform throughout the year. Rainfall should be between 100 to 150 centimeters per year and evenly distributed during the growing period, it is considered best for maximum yield. Soil should be well-drained with pH 4.5 to 5.5.

Culture and management

Land Preparation. Cut the brushes and weeds. Plow and harrow the field two to three times. Prepare furrows prior to planting.

Methods of propagation

1. Suckers – Shoots arise from the point of attachment of leaf stem below or above the ground.
2. Crown – Shoots arise on top of the fruit.
3. Slips – Shoots born on peduncle below the fruit.
4. Main stem – Stem of whole plant itself.

Planting

1. For sucker and slips
a. Single rows – Plants can be planted 8-10 cm deep, 25 cm-30 cm apart in a row, and 80-100 cm between rows. This gives 33,000-50,000 plants per hectare (ha).
b. Double row – Plants are set 25-30 cm in a row or between plants, and 50 cm between double rows. This gives 44,000-53,000 plants/ha.
c. Wide bed – Plants are set 40-50 cm apart. A bed usually constitutes 6-8 rows. Skip 7th to 9th rows to serve as path between 2 beds. This gives approximately 20,000 plants per hectare.
2. Rate – one sucker, slip, or crown per hill.
3. Planting time – March and August.

Weeding and cultivation

Weeding is done by pulling out weeds by hand, hoe, or other instruments. Spray weeds with herbicides such as Karmex 80 WP and applied at 6.4 kilograms (kg) per ha. Use weeds as mulch to conserve soil moisture and add organic matter.

Fertilization 

Pest and disease control 

1. Mealy bug, Dysmococcus brevipes Cokerell, is commonly located on the tender parts of the leaves, generally in the crevices of the whorls. Mealy bugs are disseminated by ants. Spray plants with registered pesticide.
2. Root grub, Leucopholis irrota Chevrolet, is white when newly-hatched and turns light brown with age. The adult are grayish black beetles known as salagubang in Tagalog. It feeds on the roots of the plant causing it to wither. When heavily infested, the plant dies. Spray plants with registered pesticide.

Off-season fruit production

Off-season flowering and fruiting can be induced by applying calcium carbide (carborul) and ethephon. Calcium carbide may be applied in solution or granular form. Dissolve 2 kg carbide in kerosene can with water and apply about 30 milliliters or 3 tablespoons in the heart of a growing plant at least 12 months old, preferably late in the afternoon.

Apply granular form of calcium carbide, about the size of a bean of sitao, by placing this in the heart of the growing plant in the morning. Fruits are obtained 5 months after application.

Harvesting 

Harvesting of pineapple is done when
1. The eyes of Red Spanish becomes reddish brown yellow or light orange;
2. The eyes of Smooth Cayenne turn light yellow or golden yellow.

Yield per hectare depends on the distance of planting; hence, the total number of plants per hectare. Each plant bears only one fruit.

Grade the pineapple properly in order to obtain a good price. Separate unmarketable and damaged fruits from the good ones.

Pack grade pineapple in suitable transporting materials to minimize injury during transit. Wooden crates with appropriate cushion and capacity could be used for this purpose. For shorter trips, sacks will do.

No matter what transport/packaging material is used, fruits should be adequately protected from mechanical injury during transit. Do not expose fruits to the sun during transit to preserve their quality and appearance. (Regional Agriculture and Fisheries Information Division (RAFID ) in cooperation with Crops Division, DA -10)

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s December 2018 issue.