SOME housewives and other individuals say that they have tried planting garlic and onions in their backyards hereabouts, in the highlands of the Cordillera, with some measure of success. Some of them have posted photos of their accomplishments on Facebook.

Mrs. Marilou Castaneda, former agriculturist and researcher with the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), and later regional coordinator of the DA’s High-Value Commercial Crops Development Program (HVCDP) who now resides abroad with her family, claimed that she has been planting both commodities in New Zealand. She is optimistic that both crops can grow well also under our semi-temperate conditions.

In a given year, the demand for both onions and garlic are always high and oftentimes, their costs are prohibitive to most consumers. The country produces only 6-14 percent of the demand for garlic.

Due to the perennial shortage of both commodities in the market, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol, challenged all regional offices of the agency to experiment and try out appropriate and relevant technologies for the production of both crops in their respective area of coverages.

But can our farmers in the highlands really succeed in growing onions and garlic?

A technology demonstration on the production of garlic and onions was conducted by the BPI at its Baguio National Crops Research and Development (BNCRDC) station at Guisad, Baguio City and in Kapangan, Benguet to find some answers to the question.

The demonstration activities were patterned after the existing technologies followed in the lowlands where both crops were traditionally grown.

The BPI researchers targeted planting their experimental garlic and onion crops last October-November, in time for the cool months which is the favored time to grow both crops in the lowlands. The reason for this was to avoid pest infestation, particularly thrips and mites for garlic; and thrips, armyworms, and cutworms for onions.

For both crops, all of the above pests favor and thrive well during warmer weather.

The planting of the experimental crops was delayed to December because of the late arrival of the seeds and needed inputs. Notwithstanding the delay, the experiment succeeded in demonstrating that both crops can be successfully grown in Baguio City, particularly in Guisad; and in Kapangan, Benguet.

Results for both trials in Guisad, Baguio City and Kapangan, Benguet were quite similar.

BPI researcher, Ms. Divina Jose presentation of the research results during the field day conducted, April 4, 2018, showed that a computed marketable yield of 3.18 to 3.42 tons per hectare was harvested for the Mindoro variety of garlic from their experimental areas. The weight per bulb is 18.50 grams with an average diameter of 4.27 centimeters. The result is almost the same for the Batanes garlic strain.

For onions, the computed marketable yield for Rio Bravo variety is 18 tons per hectare, while that of the improved Red Express is 16 to 18 tons per hectare. The average return on investment (ROI) for Red Onion was P20 per kilogram; and P16 per kilogram for yellow/white onion.

The field day last April 4, was attended by farmers, local government unit technicians from the province of Benguet and its municipalities, particularly La Trinidad, Sablan, Kapangan, Tuba; Barlig, Mountain Province; Pinsao National High School, Baguio City; Bokod National High School Bokod; Barangay Fairview and Cresencia, both in Baguio City, and, the DA-CAR.

The participants seem to be convinced to try growing both crops in the backyard, in pots or as commercial crops, but the problem is where to get seeds.

BPI-BNCRDC Superintendent, Dr. Jesus Aspuria, told the participants that they have yet to conduct further field trials and to generate enough good seeds before they will commit to providing seed pieces for planting by farmers, and backyard growers for both crops.

Besides the added income that both garlic and onions provide, growing these healthy crops, are certainly called for in our time and age where obesity, heart, and blood diseases are rampant and can be prevented by eating these crops.

Onions are a very good source of vitamin C, as well as B6, biotin, chromium, calcium, and dietary fiber. In addition, they contain good amounts of folic acid and vitamin B1 and K. Here are some health benefits that onions provide: Boost beneficial HDL cholesterol; Thin the blood; Retard blood clotting; Lower total blood cholesterol; Lower triglycerides; and, Lower blood pressure.

For garlic, experts say there are several ways to use them: As blood purifier; For relief from colds and flu; For the prevention of heart disease; As anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic; For cancer prevention; For healthy skin and hair; and, For healing of splinters.