By Zac B. Sarian
With the recent kurikong (cecid fly) infestation, what can we plant instead of mango? That’s the question of a budding agripreneur from Tarlac. Really, the kurikong menace has discouraged a lot of carabao mango growers. They are reluctant to buy expensive fertilizer and crop protection chemicals because these will only go to waste if the crop is attacked by the cecid fly that causes the damage.
Offhand, we can think of two possible crops that could be planted on a commercial scale instead of carabao mango. One is jackfruit, particularly the recommended varieties like the Eviarc Sweet from Leyte and the latexless varieties from Malaysia and Thailand.
The other fruit crop is pomelo. Again, the varieties should be with proven desirable traits. First of all, they should have superior eating quality, be adaptable to a wide range of climate, resistant to pests and diseases, high-yielding, and other good characteristics.
Back to jackfruit
Jackfruit has a number of advantages compared to mango. Jackfruit is less expensive to maintain than mango. It does not have serious disease or insect problems. The only common problem is the borer that could cause damage if not prevented. Prevention, however, is easy. Bagging the young fruit with ordinary sacking will solve the problem.
Jackfruit can be distanced eight meters apart, so more trees can be planted in one hectare than mango. The latest recommendation in mango is 14 meters apart. Jackfruit also starts bearing fruit as early as three to four years old from planting in the ground. On the other hand, grafted mango trees usually bear fruit in six to seven years from planting. Besides, jackfruit does not require flower-inducing chemicals to produce fruits. Also, it is much easier to harvest jackfruit than mango, especially the old trees.
Jackfruit also commands a high price in the market. Processors are looking for sources that could supply commercial volume of fruits. So the trick is to plant jackfruit in big numbers to attract big buyers. Jackfruit is processed into sweet preserves, dried, vacuum-fried and other preparations. It is an ingredient in halo-halo, special “turon” and other native delicacies.
Now comes pomelo
This fruit crop has its own advantages over the carabao mango. Pomelo has a long storage life, so that it can be kept for weeks or months without spoiling given the proper postharvest handling.
There are good pomelo varieties to choose from. One of them is the Magallanes pomelo, which is often called Davao pomelo. It is the variety that is being produced by Meloy Mercado of Golden pomelo fame. There are also imported varieties that are also superior in a number of ways. Two Vietnam varieties are the white Nam Roi and the red Dha Xanh. Other varieties are the Milo Mas from Malaysia and several Thai varieties.
It is possible to produce marketable fruits in the second or third year if you plant the large planting materials that are usually marcots. As in jackfruit, there is no need for flower inducers in pomelo. One trick is to adequately fertilize the tree and after a while, subject the tree to stress like depriving it of water for about three weeks or one month. After that, irrigate the tree copiously. Soon, flowers will emerge.
Among the pests common to pomelo are the rind borer and fruit fly. These can be prevented by spraying with the recommended pesticide or by bagging the fruits. Gummosis is another problem encountered by pomelo growers. This, however, can be minimized by providing adequate nutrition, which means balanced fertilizers. Scraping the gum and then painting the affected area with fungicide is one remedy for gummosis.
At any rate, if you opt to plant pomelos, try to learn as much as you can about the right technologies in producing a bumper crop of pomelo.
This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s April 2020 issue.