Strawberry thrives even in CamSur

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LOWLAND STRAWBERRY Strawberry plants are thriving not just in Benguet’s cold climate, but also in a tropical one in Ocampo town in Camarines Sur. An agribusiness graduate has successfully propagated the plants in a lowland farm, including green apples and tangerine, and claims that his fruits are sweeter. JUAN ESCANDOR/INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

OCAMPO, Camarines Sur—He’s a green thumb par excellence in these parts.

Agribusiness graduate Leonardo Libreja successfully propagated strawberry in the lowland of this town, demonstrating that the plant can thrive in a hot climate and bear fruit “sweeter” than those found in the Mountain Province.

It has been a common belief here that plants thriving in cold climate, such as strawberry, apple and tangerine (a citrus fruit similar to the mandarin orange) will barely survive in a tropical climate like in Ocampo town, northeast of Naga City.

Using a marcotted specimen from Hawaii, Libreja, 34, was also able to plant green apple and tangerine, and make them thrive and bear fruit on his farm. He plans to produce commercially the green apple and tangerine.

Marcottage is a method of propagation that induces a shoot or branch to take root while it is still attached to the parent plant.

University of Hawaii

Using a Hawaiian variety of strawberry he brought here after training from 2003 to 2005 at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at University of Hawaii Minoa, Libreja took seven years to perfect the “acclimatization” of the variety that he is now starting to mass-produce.

Acclimatization is the process by which a plant is gradually made to adjust with the weather until it becomes used to it.

Libreja said what he did was to expose the strawberry plant to the heat of the sun in varying duration until he was able to create shoots that could withstand the hot climate.

Since the breakthrough, he has been able to produce the kind of strawberry plants that can thrive here and sell these to farms in Camarines Sur and Albay.

Farm boy

Libreja, who grew up on a farm and has loved cultivating crops, said he enjoyed spending long hours in backyard experiments clad in shorts, old shirt and flip-flops.

Farm work eventually became a passion that helped him unlock the secrets of raising strawberry.

After graduating in 2001 from an agribusiness course at Camarines Sur State Agricultural College (now Central Bicol State University of Agriculture), he told his father that he would concentrate on farming.

Two years later, he transformed their farm into an integrated system, complete with aquaculture production and innovative propagation of vegetables on bamboo trays that touch pond water.

He combined these with the planting of ornamental plants to complete the classic “bahay kubo” concept that won him the most outstanding young farmer honors in Bicol in 2003.

Through initiatives of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Libreja was granted an 18-month training in farming in Hawaii where he learned different skills in propagating crops and ornamental plants.

“I learned hydroponics farming, use of drip irrigation and several other techniques in propagating plants scientifically,”he said.

At the end of the 18-month training, Libreja obtained shoots of Hawaiian strawberry and grapes, and marcotted green apple and tangerine that he brought to the Philippines with help from the DA.

Excited to prove he could raise plants that could thrive in a different climate, Libreja planted green apple and tangerine in his farm in Barangay (village) Binit in this town, employing the same process of acclimatization that has helped the plants survive, thrive and bear fruit.

Steady income

But his most important discovery and creation was his success in propagating strawberry through commercial production of fruit-bearing plants, a feat that has been providing him with steady income since December last year.

Libreja sells ready-to-bear-fruit strawberry plants for P300 per plastic bag, an enterprise which he foresees would give him long-term income.

He said he would also branch out to propagating ready-to-bear-fruit grapes in plastic bags and other plants like an herb-like plant called stevia whose leaves are sweeter than sugarcane.

The stevia plant, which Libreja cultivates in his small garden store by the highway, has a distinctive sweet taste when chewed.

He said the garden store where he was cultivating his strawberries would be computerized this year through the installation of an electronic system that would control and monitor the irrigation of his plants.

Garden store

Libreja envisions a garden store where the plants he would sell differ from the other products sold like grafted roses with different colors in each branch or a citrus tree with different branches bearing different fruits.

He said he so mastered grafting such that 98 percent of his creations were surviving and thriving.

Libreja sees himself as becoming the sole distributor of heat-resistant strawberry seedlings with the increasing number of farms adopting his crops for wider commercial use.

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  • UrHONOR

    WHAT a talent! Libreja will surely be a hit in the coming years, if not yet already!

    • Melenggay Laranery

      Not talent..it’s all about passion or hobby…I have planted many numerous exotic fruit trees on our backyard in Moonwalk Paranaque. I have brought strawberry plants and Bare root grape vines from California and they are both thriving.. So far I have 103 different kinds of fruiting trees on our garden…..It’s all about passion….

      • UrHONOR

        PLANTING is not talent, to some extent. But developing a cultivar is. Anybody can dig into the soil and plant…but without talent, success in planting could be elusive. Well, I’ve got 5 has of herbs and fruit trees and I say I have TALENTED people tending the farm to produce the quality and quantity of units I set to achieve. TALENT, BTW, does not refer to GENIUS but to skill or aptitude.

      • Vertumnus

        The question is, have you develop cultivar species capable of growing in hot climates and produce fruits for commercial farming? The objective is to develop species able to thrive in hot climate not just to see if they will grow in your backyard.

      • Melenggay Laranery

        yes, that’s a good point. I planted mine on partial shade areas. Direct sun will wilt and kill the plant. Once the plant is acclimated to the weather, the scion can now be used to cultivate new ones. The Strawberry variety i bought was the once grown in southern california where sunshine and heat abound. I know a professor in Up Los Banos who once told me that you can introduce a foreign specie and once it acclimates, it can be used to form a new cultivar….It’s hard…that’s why you need passion…coz passion has patience….it’s a long process and hope that someone do succeed…it’s possible because there are strawberries there.

      • gikiness

        that’s why its hard, no matter how much passion you have, if you don’t have the talent, you won’t be able to grow these non-tropical plants successfully in a tropical area.

      • AntiAko

        Did you have to obtain special permit to bring the planting materials back? Did the US or Phil authorities demand permits? Thanks.

      • Melenggay Laranery

        nakalusot lang sa custom>>>swerte!!!

      • gikiness

        kaya mo rin bang magtanim ng strawberry, mansanas at tangerine sa garden mo using your passion?

      • alex ca

        technique lang ho yan gikiness….

      • gikiness

        kung technique yan matagal na sanang may mga locally produced na strawberries mansanas at grapes dati pa.

      • Melenggay Laranery

        There’s already a locally produced strawberry, mansanas and grapes. You should go out and smell the roses!!!. Ang problema growing apples, or grapes aren’t commercially viable dahil ang hirap alagaan. There for a few passionate and talented gardener ang may meron nitong tanim. Alam mo ba? we are the ones who created the seedless lanzones pero Thailand was able able to commercially grow it (that’s why it’s expensive)

      • gikiness

        kasi nga, mas talented ang mga Thailand, ang tatamis kaya ng mga prutas nila dahil sa talent nila sa pagtatanim

      • Exo

        That’s nothing. I have planted Fuji apples, different kinds of grapes and oranges in our backyard. I now have 250 different kinds of fruiting trees in our garden. Our garden is only 5sqm but I was able to squeeze all those trees into that small area. Pine trees are also growing. It’s all about passion….

      • CommonSens6

        Sorry, I find it hard to believe you have 250 fruit trees and pine trees growing in a 5 square meter space — unless they are all “bonzai” size.

      • Exo

        Sorry, akala ko obvious na joke lang yung sinabi ko. For the record, joke lang po yung sinabi ko. Ikaw talaga. Lahat ng binanggit ko ay pangcold climate na prutas. May pine tree pa in 5sqm lot!

      • CommonSens6

        Sorry hindi ko nasakyan. My apologies!

      • $5699914

        Brod, pine tress could also survive sa hindi cold climate na lugar. Sa Proj. 8, sa loob ng Toro Hills Elementary School, mayroon noon pines tress.

      • joboni96

        MABUHAY

        Leonardo Libreja

  • http://www.yellowmythbusters.gov.ph/ Weder-Weder Lang

    Now this is what we call Filipino ingenuity. Growing strawberry where previously thought to be not so possible. Buffeted by the easterlies from the Pacific, this strawberry venture is quite a success.

    On the contrary, PNoy and his family’s possession of huge haciendas has not produced strawberries nor benefits for ordinary people. Ni pagbungkal ng lupa hindi nga marunong si PNoy. All he and his family knows is how to exploit poor farmers and government powers.

    With more parasites like PNoy in government, tapos na ang boksing ng Pinas.

    • Karabukov

      You got me in “Now this what we call Filipino ingenuity.”

      You lost me in “On the contrary, PNoy…”

      • http://www.yellowmythbusters.gov.ph/ Weder-Weder Lang

        It only means we need more people like Dr. Libreja who could make productive use of land and benefit our country. Not hacienderos like PNoy who peasant farmers.

        That should be easy enough for you to understand.

      • Melenggay Laranery

        You cannot make that comparison.. Planting rare fruits is a passion for Dr. Libreja…Pnoy’s Hacienda is Sugar Cane…. Indeed you are the one that is lost.

      • http://www.yellowmythbusters.gov.ph/ Weder-Weder Lang

        But I just made the comparison. And PNoy’s passion was never sugar cane. PNoy’s passion was sucking blood out of peasant farmers. Where were you hiding the last 100 years Melanggay Laranery?

      • lapasan

        This is about agricultural technology and productivity. Yet you inserted political comments. You are out of topic.,

      • philhumanist

        mga paid professional haters yan ni pnoy. huwag na lang patulan.

      • epros

        Boom Sir !!!! Hmmm Truth hurts ha ha ha !!!

      • Billy Reyes

        Man I appreciate in some extent that you have concern in our country. But if you have personal problem with Aquino/Cojuangco family you should not bring that here all the time. You disrespect yourself by doing that.
        Just grow up my friend.

      • http://www.yellowmythbusters.gov.ph/ Weder-Weder Lang

        Thanks Billy. I’ll make sure to tell PNoy to grow up. Man his inner child, or better known as bonjing, always shows up when you least expect it. Sorry to hurt your feelings Billy. Or is it William?

    • sanjuan683

      Villar tigilan muna yun mga subdivision ng lupa nawawala na ang mga malalaki lupa dito sa Cavite Pagdating na panahon wala na pagkain manggagaling sa lupa. Tigilan muna yan katakawan mo sa mga subdivision para kumita ka lang. Ang gawin mo mga tenement house hanggang 10floor para tipid sa lupa. Kaya sa darating na election hindi ko iboboto ito Villar na si hanep balak yata pati buong Pinas gawin subdivision.

    • romeyo chill

      now why do you need to compare Pnoy with Libreja? You don’t expect all people to be inclined in same fields of specialization. These two are both great men and they are contributing to our country’s development in their own ways.

      • http://www.yellowmythbusters.gov.ph/ Weder-Weder Lang

        wrong. i contrasted Libreja from PNoy. Libreja is great and i agree. PNoy is a hobbyist who turned sucking the peasant farmers’ blood into a competitive sport. indeed, different fields of specialization.

      • mkbayan_ako2

        Yes I do agree with phihumanist, this is a good example of paid professional haters of PNOY. Injecting politics in this kind of topic is absurd. Net users have are intelligent and have better discernment compare to common “kalyeng tao”. You are out of place dude! bettter do it sa plaza miranda or any other town plazas, baka sakaling paniwalaan ka nila dun. Hehehe. The only good thing here is bayad ka……#### demolitionjobforpnoyinpreparationfor2016election####

  • Melenggay Laranery

    “Using a marcotted specimen from Hawaii, Libreja, 34, was also able to plant green apple and tangerine,” What “Green Apple”? There are many varieties of green apples such as Pippins, Golden Delicious, Granny’s Smith, Crab apples, etc. Be more specific so that you can enlighten your readers….

    • romeyo chill

      “Green apple” is the right term because it’s what the majority knows and understands. Those terms you provided are highly technical and of course people with limited knowledge know nothing about them.

  • George Morales

    Wala bang contact number and address?

  • MangDolphy

    Wala ba’ng peste at mga insekto sa Camsur? Dito sa Iloilo kahit ano itanim mo naguumpisa pa lang tumubo binabanatan na ng fruit fly, waya-waya, aphids, army worms, etc. Mahirap na magpatubo, lalo na mag pa bunga. Di ba kinkain ng mga ito ang strawberry? Di ba sya gumagamit ng pesticide? La naman kasi sya sinabi kung paano. Kung magtanim ka nyan dito sa amin, kung hindi din lang sa loob ng greenhouse, umaangat pa lang sa lupa, ubos na yan.Tapos na palatuntunan mo.

    • randyaltarejos

      Dapat siguro meron kang mosquito net.

    • romeyo chill

      insecticide

    • No Wie

      parang damo lang ang strawberry mabilis dumami, di naman siya sensitive, mas sensitive pa ang pechay. kapag patapos na ang season niya mamunga ay may susulpot na sanga na mahaba at iyon ay magkakaroon ng ugat at dahon na kakapit sa lupa, hanggang 5-8 na duktong duktong na sanga yun, pag medyo may mga dahon na yun, putul putulin mo na yung mga duktungan niya at magiging individual na strawberry plant na siya. kailangan lang sapat na dilig at fertilier. sa tingin ko kahit yung galing sa baguio ay mabubuhay pag tinanim mo sa di malamig na lugar basta may konting silong or greenhouse.

  • randyaltarejos

    Where can we buy these fruit-bearing plants? Any contact number or address? Mr. Escandor, kulang kasi yung information mo.

    • Handiong

      I guess you can buy them only from Mr. Libreja. Go to Ocampo, Camarines Sur.

  • mangpepe

    DAPAT SI LEONARDO ANG TINUTULUNGAN NG GOBYERNO
    MABUHAY PO KAYO SANA DUMAMI PA ANG LAHI NIYO

    • 1GeorgeTolentino2

      Basahin mo kasi. Sinabi nga sa report na Dept. of Agriculture ang nag-ayos ng scholarship nya sa Hawaii kung saan nya natutunan ang mga makabagong agricultural technology.

      • No Wie

        hindi naman yan makabagong agricultura pre, sa new zealand madaming strawberry at mura lang ang puno 2 dollars lang at mabilis dumami at gusto talaga ng strawberry ay maaraw mas magbubunga pero dapat may moisture ang lupa. kailangan lang may lugar.

  • jpastor

    Libreja for DA secretary!

    • romeyo chill

      is there a term “political mindset” ?

  • klepto

    Sana mag propagate ka rin ng Marijuana na ang dahon ay katulad ng hugis ng dahon ng Malunggay.

    • romeyo chill

      lol

  • ARRANCAR

    for years i have planted starwberry plants and bear fruits in this part of metro manila, i use the imported variety from the US it acclimatized readily without hitch on my experience.

    • jpastor

      good comment!
      can i buy some seedlings?

      • No Wie

        strawberry dont have seedlings, its like a vine that will extend from the plant then this vine will have small roots and leaves up to about 6 to seven pcs. when it has small roots and leaves, cut the vine and plant it individually. that how strawberries multiply. also plant it in the ground not in a pot so that it will multiply quickly with plenty of fertilier.

      • jpastor

        Did tried to propagate from seeds but it took a long time. I have to chill the seeds for at least 3-weeks. It came but it doesn’t take hot weather in Manila. Seeds from strawberry fruit from La Trinidad.

      • http://www.facebook.com/tablasisland Kurt Tan

        correction, they have seeds. That’s how I planted my strawberries.

  • romeyo chill

    definitely a genius. our country needs more people like him

  • ARRANCAR

    sorry!! i already stop growing the starwberry plant i grew tired of tending it consumes time and work since i’ve other business to tend too. now i started growing other berries that are not suitable for the climate in metro manila but i was able to acclimatized it

  • ARRANCAR

    wait and see the bearing of those berries plant in a year

  • kismaytami

    Hopefully, the locally produced apples and tangerine will hit more local market soon. I bet these fruits are better than those ‘cottony apples’ and ‘dry tangerine’ coming from china.

  • No Wie

    i have a garden of strawberry here in auckland stawberry bear more fruit in summer than in winter. in his picture his strawberry were exposed too much in the sun. he is profiteering too much. 1 strawberry can bear 6 -8 siblings. the cost of stawberry ready to bear fruits is just 2 dollars here in garde shops equivalent to about 75 pesos in the phils. its easy to grow.

  • alex ca

    madali pa naman itanim ang strawberry na buto madaling tumubo. Sa akin nga dito sa labas ng bahay unti unti nang tumubo …

  • Pong_Je

    You’re praising so much of the person, but all you can give is a picture of the strawberry. tsk.tsk.

  • crisostomo_ibarra_the3rd

    Strawberries in Camsur! That is a welcome positive news among the negative news we usually see in the papers. If people can only be as persistent and as industrious like Leonardo, we should see some more positive news in the agricultural sector.

  • boybakal

    That’s good news….now we have strawberries and pili.
    On the other hand, our farm grows talahib and cogon only.

  • nano

    I have now mangoes, banana ,rambutan, lemonsito and lanzones in my backyard. How I wish i can have grapes,apple and strawberry someday with the help of Libreja`s talent. I hope Mr. Libreja give his plants for sale in diff. parts of the country .

  • Vertumnus

    If Libreja doesn’t protect his intellectual property, other Asian countries will take his plants and mass produce it just like all the rice varieties propagated by the Philippine Rice Research Institute. Thailand produce more rice than the Philippines thanks to disease resistant varieties coming out of the PRSI. The Philippines should have better protection for all farm produce researched and propagated in the Philippines. Our bananas and mangoes taste way better than those grown in other Asian and South American countries but we are not allowed to export them to America or certain European countries due to a pesky little bug. Finding a solution to this problem will open more markets for our delicious fruits and vegetables!

  • http://www.facebook.com/tablasisland Kurt Tan

    Does anybody here knows how to get in touch with Leonardo Libreja from camarines sur? Im very much interested in growing his plants.

    • jpastor

      Perhaps try to contact DA.

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