By Zac B. Sarian

Judging from the statistics in our blog, farming enthusiasts really love to read simple and doable farm tips. For instance, in the last days of December 2019 and the succeeding days of January, we posted nothing but practical farm tips.

And what did we get? When we posted the Banana Harvesting Tip at 12:08 pm on December 31, we registered in the 12 hours of that day 1,649 hits on the particular tip. Total page views that day was 2,825. It means more than half of the page views were garnered by the banana harvesting tip.

On the following day, the same tip garnered more than 1,400 hits and about the same the following three days. Total hits for the first five days of 2020 ranged from a low of 3,703 to 4,441 hits per day. That was a big leap from the usual 1,000+ every day when ordinary news items (not farm tips) were posted. That’s in addition to the 11,800+ subscribers who automatically receive every post that we feature.

When harvesting bananas of any variety, don’t cut the trunk close to the ground. Leave 1 to 1.5 meters because the old trunk still contains a lot of nutrients and water to nurture the existing suckers and the suckers to come.

Just what is the farm tip on banana harvesting that attracted so many readers? Here it is. When you harvest your banana, whether it is Cavendish, Saba, Latundan, Lakatan, Mama Sita, or whatever, don’t cut the trunk close to the ground. Leave 1.5 to 2 meters above the ground.

That’s the advice of Dr. Agustin Molina Jr., a world renowned banana expert who used to be corporate director of research and technical services of Chiquita Brands International based in Central America. He explains that the old trunk of the harvested banana still contains a lot of nutrients and water which can help sustain the growth of existing suckers.

When the old trunk is cut close to the ground, the remaining sucker or suckers will grow slowly. New suckers may not be produced at all. But when the trunk is left standing, the suckers will grow healthier and faster. New suckers may also develop.

Companion planting

Another farm tip that attracted many readers was about companion planting that drives away insects. Just like what Dr. Eduardo Paningbatan Jr., a retired soil scientist from Los Baños, does. His Arugula that he is growing in coco coir baskets are left untouched by insects. Why? What does he do? Simple. He just grows mint together with his Arugula. He swears the mint drives away the insects.

By planting together his Arugula and Mint in his hanging basket made of coco coir and coco peat, insects don’t attack the plants. Dr. Eduardo Paningbatan swears that the Mint drives away the insects.

Eggplant and radish

Another companion planting that works wonders is planting radish alongside eggplant. This was found in a research by a team headed by Dr. Susan Mae F. Calumpang from UP Los Baños. The researchers reported that intercropping radish with eggplant can prevent the infestation of the most destructive pest of eggplant – the Eggplant Fruit and Shoot Borer (EFSB).

Here’s how. When the eggplant seedlings are planted in the field, radish seeds are also planted in a shallow furrow beside the eggplants. The researchers observed that the eggplants intercropped with radish were least attacked by EFSB. The effect of the radish was most apparent nine to 10 weeks after planting, which is the time when the radish is ready for harvest. With this simple technique, the farmer can greatly reduce EFSB infestation and he also has a bonus harvest of radish that he can sell.

Tips from the mango king

The farm tips from Ricardo Tolentino, the Mango King from Ilocos Norte, drew a lot of interest from readers. This is how to make old mango trees produce high yields again.

The strategy that he found in a mango rehab project in Ilocos Norte funded by then Ilocos Gov. Imee Marcos is to adequately fertilize the old trees. The old trees that had gone down in production to only 500 kilos per tree yielded 700 kilos each by simply applying 10 kilos of complete fertilizer.

At flower induction

Tolentino also recommends that at the time of spraying the trees with flower inducer, include the insecticide and fungicide in the spray solution. By doing this, the emerging flowers will already be protected from insects and fungal diseases. And the farmer will only need to spray the trees three times against pests and diseases. This is much less than what many mango growers in Pangasinan have been doing. Pangasinan growers usually spray their trees as many as 10 times against hoppers. And that is the reason why the insects have become immune to pesticides.