Farming tech showcased in Fulbright research conference

ABOUT 150 Benguet farmers interacted directly with the principal Fulbright scientists of various farming technologies in simultaneous fora recently at Benguet State University, La Trinidad, Benguet.

This technology showcase was a major part of the annual national conference on July 19-22 of the Fulbright Philippines Agriculture Alumni Association (FPAAA) which is a group of returning Filipino researchers who obtained graduate degrees and advanced training in various fields of specialization in agriculture and fishery through the Fulbright scholarship in the United States.

The technologies in the scientist-farmer sessions covered hydroponics, mushroom pharming, biocontrol agents in postharvest and crop production, organic farming, pesticide management and livestock production.

Fish production, animal reproductive technologies and other advancements in allied fields were presented in science poster exhibits.

Hydroponics, which is a water-based, high density, vertical production of commercial crops, was among the major attractions of the technology festival in Benguet where farming, residential and industrial uses compete fiercely for every inch of soil.

“We’re expanding this technology to aquaponics by including fish into the water-plant ecosystem where they co-exist mutually to provide complete food for Filipinos in highly compact space with a very efficient use of inputs,” Dr. Chito F. Sace, principal hydroponics-aquaponics scientist, revealed to the public. “Fish wastes serve as significant supplement to the fertilizer solution in the water for the plants which in turn, provide oxygen to the fish,” he added.

Dr. Renato Reyes, an internationally acclaimed Fulbright scientist from Central Luzon State University (CLSU), Muñoz Science City, Nueva Ecija, presented mushroom pharming as a trailblazing frontier where mushroom’s commercial and functional value are harnessed to the higher plateau of nutraceutical and industrial utilities.

“The very rich diversity of mushrooms in the tropical environment and wilderness of the Philippines offers staggering possibilities in mainstreaming organic cure for lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and cancer through the nutraceutical power of mushroom-based compounds,” Dr. Reyes said.

“As such, we treat mushrooms more preciously now because science has shown that their value transcends their use as food, digester of decaying wastes or restorer of ecological balance,” he explained.

In another session, Elijah Davalos, senior science research specialist of the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech), presented some postharvest technologies including biocontrol agents for the management of diseases in high value crops such as the export winners banana and mango.

“The major export markets of high value crops is now screening against commercial, synthetic chemicals for quality preservation. To comply with food safety regulations, our solution comes from organic microbial extracts which are very effective against the prevalent agents of diseases in our fruit industry,” Mr. Davalos said. “Another variant of this formulation has also demonstrated growth stimulating effects in various plants,” he added.

Davalos is a technical associate of Dr. Dioniosio Alvindia, PHilMech executive director, Fulbright scholar and principal scientist of the biocontrol technology.

The other technology sessions discussed organic farming, pesticide management and livestock production.

Another major component of the conference was capability building for 188 researchers from 14 universities and research institutions nationwide. There were plenary presentations on funding sources for agri-fishery research, scholarships and career path for scientists. Afterwards, simultaneous mentoring sessions were conducted on the following workshops: research proposals for funding, study proposals for scholarships, writing for scientific journals and bioinformatics for crop improvement.

Dr. Rogelio Colting, former BSU president, served as keynote speaker of the conference with the theme, "Agritourism for Community Empowerment". (PR)
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