“Yummy yam production gets boost”

 Yam or ube, especially the purple variety is today’s most expensive and important root crop due to its high demand in the food processing industry, as well as for its therapeutic values.

However, commercial production of this commodity is limited by problems such as availability of quality planting materials and lack of farmers’ awareness on care and management tissue culture yam plantlets.

Records show that overall annual demand for ube is 49,000 metric tons (MT) but for 2011 only 17,844 MT was produced in around 3,000 hectares of area planted.

To address this problem, the Department of Agriculture (DA), in partnership with the University of the Philippines, Los Baños, Laguna (UPLB) and the different DA regional field offices has implemented a project that could provide farmers with enough tissue-culture yam plantlets as well as train them on handling and management of tissue-culture plantlets and overall cultural management for yam production.

One beneficiary of this project is the Kapitbahayan Cooperative of Gawad Kaling (GK) San Antonio in Catigan, Toril,  Davao City.

According to project leader Aida Adalla of  UPLB,  the cooperative  received  a total of 45,000 pieces of tissue-cultured plantlet, from the High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP)-Bureau of Agricultural Research  - funded Tissue Culture Yam Plantlets production project of the Visayas State University, Baybay, Leyte.

The agreement was that the cooperative will shoulder the cost of training of its member-beneficiaries in handling and management of the tissue-culture plantlets from the culture bottle to the field, as well as the care and management of yam production.

A private ice cream company,  Selecta also bankrolled the other cost of  yam production in the field, with the agreement that they have the first option to buy the harvest, after the farmers set aside a portion of the produce to be used as planting material for the next planting season.

HVCDP regional coordinator Melani Provido said that recently, the first batch of 3,000 hills of  yam planted using tissue culture plantlets was harvested, giving a total yield of  3,600 kilos, while the second batch is scheduled for harvest by the end of February this year.

“Although this is the first time for Kapitbahayan Cooperative to engage in yam production using tissue-culture plantlets, the cooperative had been into yam production using locally available planting materials, since 2011, through the DA-Gawad Kalinga Bayan-Anihan Project”, Provido added.

The phase one of said project was aimed at providing food for the table among 30 families in GK Pueblo Antonio, while the second phase aims for commercial yam production.

In 2012, GK Pueblo Antonio and Selecta decided to expand the project to benefit 30 more beneficiaries. However, due to limited planting materials they were only able to plant 20,000 hills that yielded some 30 metric tons of purple ube.

In 2013, GK Pueblo San Antonio also received additional support from the HVCDP of DA-Regional Field Office 11 (DA-RFO 11) in the form of a postharvest facility worth P1 million, which serves as a place for sorting and temporary storage/warehouse for harvested ube, as well as for value-adding activities for other high value products produced by the GK community, in the future.

“And now, with the availability of the tissue culture planting materials, the problem on lack of yam planting materials has already been addressed,” Provido said, adding that unlimited planting materials coupled with the enthusiasm of the beneficiaries such as the farmer-members of Kapitbahayan Cooperative, the strong support from the HVCDP of DA-RFO XI and the Davao City Agriculture Office, plus the ready market,  courtesy of the partner commercial processor, production of this highly lucrative and delicious root crop will surely go full throttle in the next planting seasons. (Aggie Media Service)