Hybrid farming to ensure coconut supply for VCO

Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña plants a hybrid coconut during a recent ceremonial planting of hybrid coconuts in Sampaloc, Quezon.

As the virgin coconut oil (VCO) was announced to be beneficial for the prevention of probable and suspected Covid-19 cases from becoming severe, the continuous supply of quality coconuts is being prepared through the planting of hybrid coconuts.

“With all the recent buzz about the efficacy of VCO in diminishing symptoms of Covid-19 patients, the demand for coconut-based products is expected to surge,” Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Pena said on his Facebook page.

Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña, National Scientist Dr. Emil Q. Javier, PCA Deputy Administrator Erlene C. Manohar, DOST-PCAARRD Executive Director Dr. Reynaldo V. Ebora and Scientist Dr. Violeta Villegas recently lead a ceremonial planting of hybrid coconuts in Sampaloc, Quezon.

De la Peña said at a recent DOST Reports webinar that he—together with National Scientist Dr. Emil Q. Javier, Deputy Administrator for R&D Erlene C. Manohar of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), Executive Director Dr. Reynaldo V. Ebora of the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD)—led a ceremonial planting of hybrid coconuts in Sampaloc, Quezon, recently.

“I am pleased to be part of the ceremonial coconut planting for PCA’s Coconut Hybridization Project in Brgy. Caldong, Sampaloc, Quezon province, on November 30 [Bonifacio Day],” he said.

The event was held as part of the field visit of an on-farm coconut hybridization project, titled “Performance Evaluation of the Two-Pronged Coconut Hybridization Scheme in Calabarzon,” under the leadership of Manohar. It is funded by DOST-PCAARRD.

The project is geared toward guaranteeing the production and ensuring sustainability of quality hybrids for the production of selected high-value products, including VCO, coconut sugar and buko (young coconut), de la Peña said during the webinar.

The DOST shares the goal of the PCA to support the coconut industry through modernization, he added.

By utilizing innovative propagation methods and active research on coconut-based products, de la Peña expressed optimism on the future of the versatile coconut.

“Dr. Javier, my former boss at DOST, is a plant geneticist and agronomist. He is a staunch advocate of the Philippine coconut industry’s modernization. For him, modernization is the key for the industry to be more productive, globally competitive, but also environmentally sustainable,” de la Peña said on his social media page.

The project is one of the front-runners in producing quality planting materials and improving coconut productivity from 45 nuts to 150 nuts per tree every year under the Industry Strategic Program for Coconut.

It is part of the PCA’s Accelerated Coconut Planting and Replanting Program.

The program aims to provide quality planting materials in order to augment the capacity of PCA Seed Production Centers to address the 10-million target hybrids by 2022.

Another important aspect of the project is the expected outcome of having adept extension workers and farmers to hybridization technology.

There are currently 10 agriculturists and six pollinators/emasculators trained for the establishment of Hybridization Scheme and Good Agricultural Practices (coconut fertilization, pest management and farm maintenance-weeding are being applied), he said.

Currently on its third year of implementation, the project was already able to produce and distribute approximately 3,000 hybrids of Tacunan Dwarf and Laguna Tall hybrids in Catanauan, Gumaca, General Luna and Candelaria towns in Quezon province, among many others.

It was observed that the produced hybrid nuts are significantly robust, have thicker girth and good vegetative growth, de la Peña said.

“It is expected that the project will generate approximately 76,000 hybrid nuts each year after five years. They will be distributed in several coconut planting areas in Calabarzon,” de la Peña added.

At the same time, it is hoped that the same hybridization setup will be replicated in all the regions of the country to fully achieve the goal of replacing all the old and senile coconut stands in the country, according to de la Peña.

Known as “the tree of life,” coconut remains to be one of the most important crops of the Philippines, he said.

The Science Chief added: “With the right amount of support from the national government and the public, we can unlock the hidden potentials of the coconut industry which may propel the country’s agricultural and economic growth.”

Image credits: Fortunato T. de la Peña’s Facebook page

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