Cur­rents

Agriculture - - Contents -

MORE THAN two years ago, we vis­ited the Ka­hariam Farms and Re­alty at Barangay Adya, Lipa City, Batan­gas and re­ported on its “Vermi Kingdom” in this col­umn (Agri­cul­ture Monthly, Jan­uary 2014).

We were back at Ka­hariam re­cently with a team of UPLB agri­cul­tural en­gi­neers led by Dr. Ernie Lozada. Farm man­ager Edgardo An­to­nio and tech­ni­cian Mark Buhat guided and briefed us on the vermi de­vel­op­ments at the “kingdom.”

The ma­jor de­vel­op­ments in the coun­try’s largest ver­mi­com­post (VC) pro­duc­ing fa­cil­ity are the out­door pro­duc­tion of VC in­stead of in green­houses, and the in­te­gra­tion of ba­nana pro­duc­tion with ver­mi­com­post­ing. There are 18 full-time field work­ers and 5 truck driv­ers em­ployed for the vermi op­er­a­tion at Ka­hariam.

“We moved the ver­mi­com­post pro­duc­tion from our green­houses to the out­doors to give us more space,” An­to­nio said.“We found that the ANC (African night crawler) does well in the out­door beds dur­ing the rainy sea­son but we have to water the beds dur­ing the dry sea­son to keep them from dry­ing up.”

In the present setup, fresh horse ma­nure from the more than 20 race­horse farms in the prov­ince are trucked in every­day and spread on the ground up to a depth of 0.28 me­ters on top of plas­tic sheets or a concrete floor to keep the sub­strate off the soil. The ma­nure is al­lowed “to heat” (fer­ment) for two weeks be­fore the ANC is stocked at 1-2 ki­los per square me­ter. The VC and worms are har­vested af­ter three months.

Air-dry­ing of the fresh VC (which can have 60-80% mois­ture lev­els) takes about a week dur­ing the dry sea­son and two weeks dur­ing the wet sea­son; this is done to bring down the mois­ture con­tent to about 40%, when it can be sieved through a me­chan­i­cally ro­tat­ing trom­mel that sep­a­rates the fine and coarse VC and the worms. The ma­chine, which costs about R 40,000, was de­signed by An­to­nio, who is an in­dus­trial engi­neer.

The fine VC—which is about 90% of the pro­cessed vol­ume—is kept in open bags for fur­ther dry­ing (up to 30% mois­ture) while the coarse VC is used for the or­ganic vegetable farm of Ka­hariam, and the worms are re­stocked in the out­door beds.

With the out­door method of ver­mi­com­post­ing, Ka­hariam has ex­panded its pro­duc­tion area to 1.6 hectares; it now has the pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity of 2,700 bags of “Ver­mi­cast” (its brand name) at 50 kg/bag or 135 tons of VC per month (4.5 tons/ day).Ka­hariam’sprod­uct is reg­is­tered with the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture’s Fer­til­izer and Pes­ti­cide Author­ity as an or­ganic soil con­di­tioner and cer­ti­fied to be or­ganic by the Or­ganic Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Cen­ter of the Philip­pines (OCCP).

“Our cus­tomer with the big­gest or­der for ‘Ver­mi­cast’ is still the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture in Re­gion IV-A, which uses it for pro­mot­ing or­ganic agri­cul­ture,” re­lates An­to­nio. “We also sell to oth­ers at R 410/bag (re­tail) and R 350/bag (whole­sale).”

In the in­te­gra­tion of ba­nana (lakatan va­ri­ety) farm­ing with ver­mi­com­post­ing, the ba­nana suck­ers or tis­sue-cul­tured plantlets are planted at a spac­ing of five me­ters be­tween vermi beds. The plants grow fast and pro­duce large fruits with the leachate from the beds, ac­cord­ing to An­to­nio.A full as­sess­ment of the in­te­gra­tion, how­ever, has still to be done.

The ef­fi­cacy of “Ver­mi­cast” has been demon­strated in field tri­als con­ducted by Ka­hariam with farmer-co­op­er­a­tors.In one trial, the pro­duc­tion of or­ganic rice in­creased from 100 to130 ca­vans/ hectare with the ap­pli­ca­tion of 20 bags of VC.The to­mato yield of Joselito Tibayan of Naic, Cavite in­creased by 20% with VCand ex­tended the fruit­ing pe­riod of the plant by 3-5 months.

Har­vest­ing of ver­mi­com­post in the out­door beds of Ka­hariam.

The me­chan­i­cal trom­mel used for sep­a­rat­ing fine and coarse ver­mi­com­post and worms at Ka­hariam.

CUR­RENTS >BY DR. RAFAEL D. GUERRERO III

The in­te­gra­tion of ba­nana cul­ture and ver­mi­com­post­ing at Ka­hariam. Note the over­head water sprin­kler sys­tem for wa­ter­ing the vermi beds dur­ing the dry sea­son.

Air-dry­ing of ver­mi­com­post in a cov­ered shed.

Ka­hariam pro­pri­etor Manuel Ba­gats­ing (fourth from left) with the au­thor, Edgardo An­to­nio (third from left), Mark Buhat (sec­ond from left), and UPLB agri­cul­tural en­gi­neers.

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