HE COULD make a two-hectare farm as productive as that of a 10-hectare one. He is only paying for one laborer, but utilizes the force of plenty of workers, some of which he eats now and then when they reach the age of six months or more.

He not only enjoys farming but equally relishes every opportunity to share his knowledge and experiences about maximizing the productivity of a limited plot of land, to anybody who is interested.

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Meet this year's Gawad Saka national winner for coconut farming category, Marcus M. Dumandan of Calinan, Davao City.

Farm innovations

Maximizing output with the least production cost is Manong Mark's motto in tilling his two-hectare farm. And he was able to achieve his goal by practicing the following innovations:

a) Multi-cropping -- to get the most out of his two-hectare farm, located in Baguio, Calinan, Davao City, Manong Mark planted several crops in between the coconut trees which are planted with a distance of 12 x 10 meters.

In one portion of his farm, he planted lanzones every six meters from the coconut trees; then he planted cacao in between the lanzones and coconut, with a distance of 3 x 3 meters. To prevent possible damage to cacao plants from falling nuts and coconut fronds, Manong Mark makes sure he plants the cacao at least three meters away from the base of the coconut tree.

Then in between the cacao trees and lanzones or coconut, he planted Arabica coffee with a distance of 1.5 x 1.5 meters, and in between coffee, he planted ginger, with a planting distance of 0.75 from the adjacent plants. He even plans to fill other available spots with lemon grass or "tanglad."

In another portion of his farm, he uses durian, banana, and gabi as intercrops to his coconut trees.

b) Organic farming and mulching -- At present, Manong Mark boasts he only uses a very minimal amount (2 bags per hectare) of inorganic fertilizer in his farm. His coconut trees which bear at least 50 nuts per bunch directly benefits from the mulching materials like cacao pods, coconut husks and other available foliage heaped around the base of the coconut trees. For other fruit trees, he utilizes his own-produced compost fertilizer.

c) Pruning -- aside from balanced fertilization, the key to a successful multi-cropping enterprise, according to Manong Mark, is heavy pruning.

"Heavy pruning is necessary to ensure maximum light penetration," he said.

For lanzones, Manong Mark recommends cutting off inside sprouts, while for cacao, he cut the branches at the center of the crown to allow maximum sunlight penetration.

"Sunlight discourages proliferation of pod borers and prevents development of fungal diseases such as pod rot," Manong Mark explained.

For durian and other fruit trees, Manong Mark practices top pruning or cutting off vertical shoots in order to encourage production of lateral branches.

"Lateral branching facilitates spraying and harvesting of fruits," Manong Mark said.

Community service

As Magsasaka Siyentista, Manong Mark not only shares his personal experiences as a successful farmer, but also promotes the adoption of modern farm technologies generated from the research studies conducted by the Southern Mindanao Integrated Agriculture Research Center (SMIARC).

He achieved these by utilizing tri-media communications channels such as: Print -- he writes technology guides for several crops like melon and mango; radio -- he is a popular guest announcer in several local radio programs such as Bahandi sa Kaumahan at DXRP and Mag-umasenso ta at dxRR; TV -- he also acts as guest panelist in several TV shows such as DA-RFU XI's Mag-umasenso Ta, aired at NBN-XI.

On top of these, he relishes actual demonstration of his various innovations at his farm located in Calinan, Davao City, which draws thousands of visitors from as far as Cavite and Nueva Ecija in Luzon.

Fruit of his labors

Aside from the increased income from his farm due to multiple-cropping system and other innovations, Manong Mark reaps honors and recognition from the different civic and academic institutions and government organizations nationwide.

Last year, through the endorsement of SMIARC chief, Alfredo Cayabyab and DA-RFU XI Regional Executive Director Roger C. Chio, Manong Mark was able to join the search for the National Outstanding Magsasaka Siyentista, and eventually came on top, besting over 400 Magsasaka Siyentistas all over the country.

The honor carries with it a plaque of recognition and a cash prize worth P130,000 for Manong Mark and for the development of his farm, and another P20,00 for the Farmers? Information Technology Service at Bago Oshiro, Davao City.

These were handed to him by Department of Science and Technology Secretary Estrella Alabastro and Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) Executive Director Patricio Faylon at the awarding ceremonies held during the 1st National Techno Gabay Summit at the SMX Convention Center, Sea Shell Drive, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City.

One year later, Manong Mark added another plum to his list of achievements by bagging the National Gawad Saka award for coconut farming category. This award carries P130,000 cash price plus trophy and plaque of recognition which were given to him personally by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during the awarding ceremony held in November 2009 at the Philippine International Convention Center.