Farmers reap profits from sale of camote

FARMERS who have ventured into the propagation of the lowly sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas L.) in Tarlac and Albay have earned millions from their enterprise, thanks to the use of planting materials resistant to viral diseases.

Work on the development of a disease-resistant camote was undertaken in March 2009 by the Philippine Council on Agricultural and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) with the farmers in lahar-devastated Tarlac and Albay, which is frequently hit by typhoons.

Camote has been included in the list of priority crops to be developed by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The Visayas State University (VSU), Tarlac college of Agriculture (TCA), University of the Philippines Los Baños-Institute of Plant Breeding (UPLB-IPB), Bicol University (BU), Tarlac and Albay local governments, Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Unit III (DA- RFU III) and International Potato Center-Users’ Perspective with Agricultural Research and Development (CIP-UPWARD) implemented the project.

To improve the production of the root crop, PCARRD embarked on propagating sweet potato clean planting materials (SP-CPM) that reduce the incidence of the virus complex disease attacking the crop.

Scientists involved in the project produced pathogen-tested and tissue cultured sweet potato seed pieces through the combination of thermotherapy and meristem culture, tissue culture, and rapid multiplication in net houses and multiplication farms.

Farmers using quality planting materials save up to 33 percent of their production costs.

Ramon Gatus of Mayantoc, Tarlac is one of the lucky farmers who purchased small volumes of pathogen-tested planting materials and reproduced them in multiplication plots using appropriate management practices.

He has already amassed millions in profits from selling quality planting materials.

At TCA, 5,722 plantlets of the VSP6 variety were micropropagated producing 462 mother plants grown inside TCA net houses for two cycles.  From CPM cuttings grown in net houses, 48.8 ha of SP-CPM multiplier farms were established.

These provided the planting material requirement for 313 ha sweet potato farms in the municipalities of Concepcion, Moncada, Gerona, Paniqui, Ramos and Capas.

Gatus, a member of the SP-CPM Producers Cooperative of Mayantoc, Tarlac which supplies fresh sweet potato roots to Metro Manila and other provinces, has earned millions from CPM and sweet potato production.

SP-CPM production has proven to be a viable and profitable enterprise giving Gatus as much as 325 percent rate of return.

In Albay, the project distributed 250,000 pieces of sweet potato cuttings to 5 seed system sites in Guinobat and Bantayan in Tabaco City and Binogsacan, Guinobatan and Paulog in Ligao City.

Yields increased n Tabaco from 20 t/ha to 28 t/ha and in Camiling from 10 tons/ha to 13.86 tons/ha.

With more and more farmers finding better rewards from propagating camote, the poor man’s crop will soon mean gold to food producers in Tarlac, Albay and elsewhere.

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