Strawberries in Ilocos Sur? Demo farm shows it’s viable
SUYO, ILOCOS SUR — The Benguet capital town, La Trinidad, has earned the reputation of being the country’s “strawberry bowl,” but a farm in far warmer Ilocos Sur province could soon become a formidable rival.
Sweet-tasting berries were recently harvested in a 1,000-square meter demonstration farm at Sitio Macaag in Barangay Suyo Proper here, about 7 kilometers from the Suyo-Cervantes Road.
Strawberries normally thrive in cool temperature.
But Masahiro Okuda, a Japanese farmer, discovered that the climate and elevation of Macaag to be suitable for berry production.
The village also grows sunflowers and vegetables in an area which has an average temperature of 18 to 24 degrees Celsius.
The strawberry seedlings and technology were provided by Francis Ching, a farmer from Mankayan town in Benguet, who had success with commercial greenhouse vegetables.
Suyo farmers initially planted the “Sweet Charlie” berries which were developed and patented by the University of Florida Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in 1994.
This variety thrives in warm weather and grows best in moist, well-drained soil. It is one of the varieties grown in La Trinidad strawberry fields about 1,300 meters above sea level.
Suyo town’s immediate plan was to build a function room and restrooms at the demo farm to accommodate a growing number of visitors, according to Mayor Samuel Subagan Jr.
But he said the farm can only accommodate up to 50 guests at a time.
The encouraging harvests have prompted Subagan to propagate strawberries in more farms, including backyard gardens, starting in July.
He said residents can earn from strawberries, now that the demonstration farm had proven it can grow 10 kilograms of berries a day. A kilogram of strawberries sells from P60 to P100. — LEONCIO BALBIN JR., CONTRIBUTOR
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