SCIENCE.PH | By Zac Sarian
The latest development in growing ampalaya is grafting. That's what they are doing at the Farm-Ready Nursery of East-West Seed Company in San Rafael, Bulacan.
The technique was started to be commercialized last year and is now becoming increasingly popular. During our recent visit to the nursery, technicians were busy grafting thousands of seedlings that have been ordered by growers in Nueva Ecija and Southern Luzon.
Although the grafted seedlings cost P17 each compared to the P4 to P5 per piece of the ungrafted seedlings, there are farmers who would rather plant the grafted ones.
Why? Because the grafted seedlings are more robust and more tolerant to stresses such as bacterial wilt disease, too much water or too dry conditions. According to Ailyn Infortuno, the lead woman in the grafting operations, the grafted seedlings have a much longer productive life. Usually, the ungrafted seedlings produce 18 to 20 harvests per cycle. In the case of the grafted ampalaya, the grower can expect 10 extra harvests.
East-West uses as rootstock a certain variety of cucurbit (cucurbits include upo, patola, cucumber, watermelon and the like) that the company would rather keep to itself.
In grafting, a small biodegradable rubber tube is used to keep the point of in place. The seed of the rootstock is planted ahead by four days. When the rootstock is 12 days old it is ready for grafting. By then the scion would be eight days old.
The seedlings are grown in plastic trays with 104 holes. Once grafting is done, the tray of grafted seedlings is placed in a healing chamber that's fully enclosed inside the greenhouse. They stay inside the chamber for four days. After that, the grafted seedlings are transferred to another chamber which is opened every two hours to let air inside. That is one way of hardening the plants. Ten days after grafting, the seedlings are ready for field planting.
Ampalaya is one of the most profitable vegetables to grow although it requires more capital than others. A total of P300,000 to P500,000 may be required as capital per hectare because of the high cost of planting materials, trellising materials, plastic mulch, fertilizers and crop protection chemicals. Nevertheless, with the right production techniques such as those practiced by Gabby Retuya of Bautista, Pangasinan, one can produce 30 to 35 tons per hectare. At an average of P30 per kilo, the 30 tons would be worth P900,000. There are times when the farmgate price is more than P50 per kilo. In that case, the profit would be very high, indeed.
By the way, the different vegetables being propagated by East-West Seed will be showcased during the celebration of the company's 30th anniversary on December 12. These include, new sitao varieties, squash, papaya, sweet corn, tomato, eggplant, cucumber, upo, patola, hot and sweet peppers, onion, watermelon and others.
During the anniversary, 30 outstanding vegetable producers who are planting East-West seeds will be honored.