Sunday, September 24, 2017

Agro-Ecology: What Practical Farming is All About

Dr Abe V Rotor

 “Farming is a way of living,” says the dean of farm management in the Philippines, Dean Felix D. Maramba, quoting Eugene Devenport who said that farming is not only a business, but a mode of life. “Sometimes the business is the prominent feature, so successful that life seems to run on one long sweet song. Sometimes the business runs so low that life is a bitter struggle.”

The farm and the family home is intertwined; in fact they are one. Anything that affects the farm as a business also directly affects as a home. The farm operator is the head of the household and the bulk of the farm work is done by the members of the family. The farmer is the farmer 24 hours a days, on weekdays as well as on Sundays and Holidays.

The children are brought up in close contact with nature. They develop an appreciation of the manifestations of the Creator through living things and their order. The farm boy does not have to wait until he is grown up before he can work and share family responsibilities. He is brought up early in the family business. In this way he will learn the value of industry and a sense of proprietorship early in life. The work habits and resourcefulness developed by farm children are kept throughout their lives.

This old school of Dean Maramba  may not be the model progressive farmers are looking for today, but definitely the better farmer is the entrepreneur who grew up with farming and pursued training in technology and farm management, and has gain the confidence and skills in transforming the traditional concept of a farm into an agribusiness and therefore, he has a better chance in dealing with the complexities of world of the agriculture and business. 

Make the correct decisions in farming.
Farming is no easy task. It is full of decisions - decisions based on socio-economic principles, and guided by rules of conduct and natural laws and of society. These are 10 guidelines in decision making.

1.  Surplus labor resources of typically large rural families should be directed to labor-intensive projects, such as integrated farming. 

2. Hillside or upland agriculture requires the cultivation of permanent crops, preferably through mixed cropping, such as intercropping of coconuts with orchard trees and annual crops.

3.   Coastal and river swamplands should be preserved as wildlife sanctuaries, and should be managed as an ecosystem, rather than an agricultural venture.  

4.   Wastes can be recycled and converted into raw materials of another enterprise. Farm wastes and byproducts of processing can be processed biologically into methane, organic fertilizer, and biomass for vermiculture.

5.  Productivity of small farms can be increased through pyramidal or storey farming.  Batangas and Cavite farmers are well known for storied multiple cropping.

6.    Poor soils can be rehabilitated through natural farming, such as green manuring, crop rotation and use of organic fertilizers, all integrated in the farming system. Corn-peanut, rice-mungo are popular models of crop rotations. 

7.  Cottage industries are built on agriculture, guided by profitability and practical technology.  It is time to look at the many agro-industries, from food processing to handicrafts.

8.  ri-commodity farming maximizes utilization of resources, such as having an orchard, planting field crops, and raising fish and livestock on one farm. 

9. Cooperative farming is the solution to economics of scale, these to include multipurpose and marketing cooperatives of farmers and entrepreneurs.
10. Since the number of days devoted to farming is only one-­third of the whole year, livelihood   outside of farming should be developed. Like a sari-sari store, a small farm cannot afford to have too many hands.  Other opportunities should be tapped outside of farming by other members of the family.

Always go for natural food

The rule of thumb is that, it is always preferred to eat foods grown under natural conditions than those grown with the use of chemicals.  These are criteria to know if  a food is natural?

·It must be fresh, or freshly packed
·It must be free from pests and diseases
·There are no harmful chemicals and artificial additives, including antibiotics residues.  
·Food must not be tainted with radiation
·Natural food excludes the so-called junk food.       
·It has been processed by natural means such as blast freezing, sun drying and the like.
·Packaging materials are safe to human health, animals and the environment.
·It meets standard organoloeptic test (taste test) and nutritional value requirements.  

There are many kinds of vegetables you can choose
for backyard and homelot gardening.

There are many vegetables to choose from: leafy – malungay, talbos (kalabasa, kamote, sayote), kangkong,; Stem – asparagus, bamboo shoot; flower– katuray, squash flower, cauliflower, broccoli, himbaba-o (alokong); fruit – ampalaya, squash, cucumber, green corn, sayote, tomato, eggplant, green papaya, pepper; root – Gabi, kamote, ube, tugui, ginger, onion, garlic, carrot, radish; seed – patani, sitao, white bean, black bean, cowpea, green pea, chick pea, pigeon pea, peanut, linga (sesame), paminta (black pepper)

Malunggay is the most popular tree vegetable in the tropic. In the province no home is without this small tree at the backyard or in a vacant lot. The leaves, flowers, juvenile pods and young fruits of Moringa oleifera (Family Moringaceae) go well with fish, meat, shrimp, mushroom, and the like. It is one plant that does not need agronomic attention, not even weeding and  fertilization, much less chemical spraying.  You simply plant an arms length cutting or two, in some corner or along the fence and there it grows into a tree that can give you a ready supply of vegetables yearound.  What nutrients do we get from malunggay?

Here is a comparison of the food value of the fresh leaves and young fruits, respectively, in percent. (Marañon and Hermano, Useful Plants of the Philippines)
·         Proteins                                 7.30             7.29
·         Carbohydrates                     11.04             2.61
·         Fats                                        1.10             0.16
·         Crude Fiber                            1.75            0.76
·         Phosphorus (P2 O 5)                0.24             0.19 
·         Calcium (CaO)                      0.72             0.01
·         Iron (Fe2O3)                        0.108            0.0005

Owing to these properties and other uses, rural folks regard malunggay a “miracle tree.” Take for other uses. The root has a taste somewhat like that of horse-radish, and in India it is eaten as a substitute to it. Ben oil extracted from the seed is used for salad and culinary purposes, and also as illuminant. Mature seeds have antibacterial and flocculants properties that render drinking water safe and clear. 

From these data, it is no wonder malunggay is highly recommended by doctors and nutritionists for both children and adults, particularly to nursing mothers and the convalescents.

Get the best from your favorite fruits
1.   Be keen with the appearance, smell, feel – and even sound – of the fruit before harvesting or buying it. There’s no substitute to taste test.though. Develop your skills on these fruits: mango, musk melon,  soursop or guyabano and its relative, sugar apple or atis.  Also try on  caimito, chico, siniguelas, and such rare fruit as sapote.

2.  To ripen fruits, rub table salt on the cut stem (peduncle). Salt does not only facilitate ripening, it also protects the fruit from fungi and bacteria that cause it to rot. You can use the rice box-dispenser to ripen chico, caimito, avocado, tomato, and the like. Wrap the fruits loosely with two or three layers of newspaper before placing them inside the box. As the fruits ripen they exude ethylene gas that hastens ripening. 

3.    Bigger fruits are always generally preferred. Not always.  Native chico is sweeter and more aromatic than the ponderosa chico.  Big lanzones have large seeds. Bicol or Formosa pineapple, although not juicier, is sweeter than the Hawaiian variety. Of course we always pick up the biggest mango, nangka, caimito, watermelon, cantaloupe, atis, guyabano, and the like. 

4.   There are vegetables that are eaten as fruit or prepared into juice. Examples are carrot, tomato, green corn, and sweet green pea. Asparagus juice, anyone? Try a variety of ways in serving your favorite fruits. nangka ice cream,  fruit cocktail in pineapple boat, avocado cake, guava wine. Enjoy the abundance of your favorite fruits, consult the fruit season calendar.

               Engage in cottage industries,
                   such as home made coconut virgin oil.
The price of this “miracle cure” has soared and there is now a proliferation of commercial brands of virgin coconut oil in the market.  The old folks show have been doing this for a long time. One such person is Mrs. Gloria Reyes of Candelaria (Quezon) who makes virgin coconut oil. This is the step-by-step process.

1.    Get twenty (20) husked, healthy, and mature nuts.  They should not show any sign of spoilage or germination. Shake each nut and listen to the distinct sound of its water splashing. If you can hear it, discard the particular nut. 

2.    Split each nut with a bolo, gathering the water in the process. Discard any nut at the slightest sign of defect, such as those with cracked shell and oily water, discolored meat, presence of a developing endosperm (para). Rely on a keen sense of smell. 

3.    With the use of an electric-driven grating machine, grate the only the white part of the meat.  Do not include the dark outer layer of the meat. 

4.    Squeeze the grated meat using muslin cloth or linen to separate the milk (gata) from the meal (sapal).  Gather the milk in wide-mouth bottles (liter or gallon size).
5.    Cover the jars with dry linen and keep them undisturbed for 3 to 5 hours in a dry, dark and cool corner.

6.    Carefully remove the floating froth, then harvest the layer of oil and place it in a new glass jar. Discard the water at the bottom.  It may be used as feed ingredient for chicken and animals.

7.    Repeat the operation three to four times, until the oil obtained is crystal clear.  Now this is the final product – home made virgin coconut oil.   

Virgin coconut oil is a product of cold process of oil extraction, as compared with the traditional method of using heat.  In the latter coconut milk is brought to boiling, evaporating the water content in the process, and obtaining a crusty by-product called latik.  The products of both processes have many uses, from   ointment and lubrication to cooking and food additive. There is one difference though, virgin coconut oil is richer with vitamins and enzymes - which are otherwise minimized or lost in the traditional method.   

Get rid of waste by utilizing them.
Agricultural byproducts make good animal feeds, as follows:  
  • ·   Rice straw, corn stovers and sugarcane tops, the most common crop residues in the tropics, contain high digestible nutrients, and provide 50% of the total ration of cattle and carabaos.

  • ·      Rice bran and corn bran are the most abundant general purpose feed that provides 80 percent of nutritional needs of poultry, hogs and livestock, especially when mixed with copra meal which is richer in protein than imported wheat bran (pollard). 

  • ·      Cane molasses is high in calorie value. Alternative supplemental feeds are   kamote vines for hogs and  pineapple pulp and leaves for cattle. 

 Here is a simple feed formula for cattle: Copra meal 56.5 kg; rice bran (kiskisan or second class cono bran) 25kg; molasses 15kg; Urea (commercial fertilizer grade, 45%N) 2.0kg; salt 1.0kg; and  bone meal 0.5kg.  Weight gain of a two-year old Batangas cattle breed fed with this formulation is 0.56 kg on the average,

These are byproducts which have potential feed value: These are byproducts or wastes in the processing of oil, starch, fish, meat, fruit and vegetables. The abundance of agricultural by-products offers ready and cheap feed substitutes with these advantages. 

  • It cut down on feed costs,
  • reduces the volume on imported feed materials,
  • provides cheaper source of animal protein,
  • provides employment and livelihood, and
  • keeps the environment clean and in proper balance.
 Protect nature through environment-friendly technology.

One example is the use of rice hull ash to protects mungbeans from bean weevil. Burnt rice hull (ipa) contains silica crystals that are microscopic glass shards capable of penetrating into the conjunctiva of the bean weevil, Callosobruchus maculatus.  Once lodged, the crystal causes more damage as the insect moves and struggles, resulting in infection and desiccation, and ultimately death.

This is the finding of Ethel Niña Catahan in her masteral thesis in biology at the University of Santo Tomas. Catahan tested two types of rice hull ash,  One is partly carbonized (black ash) and the other oven-burned (white ash).  Both were applied independently in very small amount as either mixed with the beans or as protectant placed at the mouth of the container. In both preparations and methods, mungbeans – and other beans and cereals, for that matter – can be stored for as long as six months without being destroyed by this Coleopterous insect.
The bean weevil is a cosmopolitan insect whose grub lives inside the bean, eating the whole content and leaving only the seed cover at the end of its life cycle.  When it is about to emerge the female lays eggs for the next generation. Whole stocks of beans may be rendered unfit not only for human consumption, but for animal feeds as well.  It is because the insect leaves a characteristic odor that comes from the insect’s droppings and due to fungal growth that accompanies infestation.
             Rice is substitute, and a better one,  to wheat flour.

Of all alternative flour products to substitute wheat flour, it is rice flour that is acclaimed to be the best for the following reasons:

·    Rice has many indigenous uses from suman to bihon (local noodle), aside from its being a staple food of Filipinos and most Asians.
·    In making leavened products, rice can be compared with wheat, with today’s leavening agents and techniques.
·       Rice is more digestible than wheat.  Gluten in wheat is hard to digest and can cause a degenerative disease which is common to Americans and Europeans.
·     Rice is affordable and available everywhere, principally on the farm and in households.

Other alternative flour substitutes are those from native crops which are made into various preparations -  corn starch (maja), ube (halaya), gabi (binagol), and tugui’ (ginatan), cassava (cassava cake and sago).         
Lastly, the local rice industry is the mainstay of our agriculture.  Patronizing it is the greatest incentive to production and it saves the country of precious dollar  that would otherwise be spent on imported wheat.

Let’s aim at unifying agriculture and ecology into agro-ecology.  This is what practical farming is all about.    
                                                                     x     x     x

10 Frankenstein monsters roaming in our postmodern world

Anyone who has read Frankenstein cannot forget the frightful scenario of a monster created in the laboratory that eventually turned against his master and terrorized the world - a reminder of the unpredictable consequences of science-on-the-loose.
Dr Abe V Rotor

Hiroshima, aftermath of the first atomic bomb.  
Holocaust, Nazi Concentration Camp in Auschwitz
Anyone who has read Frankenstein cannot forget the frightful scenario of a monster created in the laboratory that eventually turned against his master and terrorized the world - a reminder of the unpredictable consequences of science-on-the-loose.

Invariably we have revived the Frankenstein monster in many forms, such as these.

1. The invention of the atomic bomb and its subsequent progeny - hydrogen bomb, neutron bomb and cobalt bomb - that are far more deadly and destructive, and their stockpiling into a power keg that still exist today even after the Cold War has ended in 1989.

2. Medical breakthroughs in saving lives and extending life span contribute to the population explosion and demographic imbalance where societies are burdened by too many young who are unproductive and highly dependent, and elderly group, with increasing healthcare-dependent members.

3. Organ transplantation and replacement which is leading us farther and farther to a new frontier called bionics; a combination of the rational being and the robot, natural and artificial intelligence.

Image result for Frankenfood pictures

4. Genetically modified organisms (GMO) whereby it is possible to combine genes of organisms outside their kind, irrespective of species - or kingdom, for that matter. Bt Corn carries the gene protein of a bacterium - Bacillius thuringiensis - that parasitizes caterpillars that feed on corn crop. New strange life variations are sprouting defying identity and classification.  They are nameless like the monster created by Frankenstein.   

5. Mega-industrialization that has resulted not only to the demise of natural environments (ecosystems) and many species of organisms, but the destruction of the ozone layer and the gradual and steady buildup of atmospheric gases and temperature known as global warming. Global warming has alarming effects in changing climate patterns worldwide, spawning more frequent and more destructive force majeure from drought to f
lood to  typhoons and tornadoes.  

6. Urbanization leading to the growth of megacities which continue to destroy the homeostasis of rural-urban relationship, spawning poverty and leading to the degradation of human life at the source of migration on one hand, and at the burgeoning centers on the other.

7. Population explosion setting a record of 7.7 billion people today and doubling in less than fifty years if left unchecked - indeed a grim reminder of the ghost of Malthus two hundred years ago (Malthusian Theory), and a proof that the natural laws that govern survival has been radically changed.

8. Consumerism on which capitalism flourishes in the guise of progress and the good life, but in effect creates imbalance of the economy of nations, dividing them into power-wealth categories, and have and have-not, loss of values, and abusive exploitation of resources at the expense of Planet Earth.

9. Gold rush syndrome resulting in the Tragedy of the Commons, a principle that is based on Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale, a story that illustrates that greediness and wanton destruction has always a tragic end, as evidenced today by the declining fish catch in the ocean, dwindling freshwater supply, logged over forests, spent farms and  pastures, near exhaustion of fossil fuels, and the like.

10. While ecumenism bridges religions, cultism is divisive and segregative. There is a rise of the so-called hybrid religions which have lost their dogmatic identities, and are gaining popularity as a kind of religious liberation. On the other hand, more and more people around the world are drawn into the world of nones (people who have lost faith in organized religions) - if not the atheism, particularly those overwhelmed by the influence of postmodern living.~

These ten attributes of a modern Frankenstein haunt modern man and his society today exacerbated by his aim at globalization. The shrinking of the planet into a global village so to speak, through scientific breakthroughs, expansion of commerce and industry, opening of new frontiers of human settlement and habitation which sooner or later include the building of cities under the sea and in space, and the proliferation of multimedia making information accessible anywhere in any place of the globe - all these make the avenging monster closer to his creator, and therefore making him vulnerable to its evil intent. 

Such is the story of Mary Shelley's fiction that has a tragic ending - the destruction of both monster which never bore a name, and its creator - the young genius, Frankenstein.

But what really triggered the monster to take revenge against his creator - and the whole world for that matter?  Here are excerpts from an abridged version.

"... in the whole world there was no one  who would pity me and no one would help me."

Sadly the creature (monster) turned his eyes on Victor.
Scene of Dr Frankenstein and the monster he created based on the celebrated novel by Mary Shelly in the 19th century  (Wikipedia photo),
"My thoughts turned to you, Frankenstein: my creator...  I am alone and miserable.  You must create another being: a woman as deformed and ugly as I am, who will live with me and love me and be my wife.  Only you can do that."

"I refuse.  Never again will I create wickedness."

"You are wrong, Frankenstein," replied the fiend.  "I would live in kindness with people but they will not let me.  If I cannot have love I will cause fear."

His face wrinkled in agony.

Make a creature who loves me, who does not run away from me, and I will make peace with you.  Make me happy.  Do not deny me! We will go away together and will never see us again.  I swear it.  Please!"

(Frankenstein did not accede to the plea. Instead he pledge to destroy the monster,  but he failed. )

When he saw Victor's frozen body, in the falling darkness, the monster was almost moved to tears.

"Forgive me, Frankenstein, I destroyed everything you loved.  But I have suffered great misery myself.  You cannot hear me this, but I did not want to kill them.  It is all ended now.  You are my last victim.

So saying the creature bowed his head in wretchedness. "What is there left for me, but death?"

The monster turned and disappeared into the darkness. 

Frankenstein, Ladybird Horror Classics. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

UST Development Communication: There is no escape from our high tech world

Assignment: Continue the list as suggested at the end of the lesson.

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog

Virtually there is no escape from our high tech world.

Imagine life if there were no cell phones, cable TV, video games, malls, hospitals, e-mails, solar watches, MRT/LRT, ATM, and the like.  And if we think about today's processes in making the many products we use everyday - from ballpoint pens to cars - imagine computers and robots at work in place of man.

Scenario: a quart clock awakens you. You switch on the light, tune in the TV or radio, take a bath, pick up the phone, cook breakfast, read the morning paper, dress up, take the elevator, drive the car, etc., etc., etc.  All this is not surprising to those of us who live in urban centers.  

Death lurks in the byproducts of "The Good Life"

But hear this.  The milk you drink is genetically modified (human embryo hormone was injected into the cow to produce more milk),;  the corn flakes you eat comes from Bt corn (corn with a gene of a bacterium - Bacillus thuringiensis); your potato and onion are irradiated for longer shelf life; your lettuce carries a trace of dioxin (the deadliest toxin ever synthesized), your tuna carries a residue of mercury; the microwave emits rays that are not good to health; the paint in your condominium contains lead; plastic deteriorates and you may not know you are absorbing the byproducts; synthetic fabric is the cause of your allergy; there is nitrate (salitre) in corned beef and in tocino; MSG (Mono Sodium Glutamate) in noodles, aspartame in softdrinks, sulfite in sugar; Potassium Bromate in bread.  And the list goes on, ad infinitum. 

In Time magazine, March 3, 2014, a new research links common chemicals and brain disorders in kids. This is how everyday toxins may affect our kids.

1. Manganese - Found in drinking water, is linked with lower math scores, hyperactivity, impaired motor skills and some drops in intellectual function.

2. Carbonates - Found in pesticides used to kill cockroaches, flies and mosquitoes, and lawn bugs, are linked to defects in brain development.

3. Tetrachloro-ethylene - Found in dry cleaning solvents, is linked to problems in brain development and a higher rate of psychiatric diagnoses. 

4. Polybrominated biphenyl ethers - Found in furniture and toys as a flame retardant is linked with disorders in brain development among kids with higher in utero exposure. (In utero is a Latin term literally meaning "in the womb". In biology, the phrase describes the state of an embryo or fetus.) 

The deleterious by-products of today's science and technology exacerbate the problems of mankind.  Paradoxically, science and technology have not successfully eradicated the ancient scourge of mankind - disease, poverty, and ignorance.

While man may have a grasp of history and his society, he has apparently lost control of his destiny.

 Globalization also takes away our original identities as individual and as a people.  It homogenizes diversity into a common pool, including our independence in belief, thinking and conviction -  and the quaintness of alternative ways of living. 

At this point we would like you to switch your thoughts and focus your attention on the following areas:
  1. Environmental preservation/conservation
  2. Saving the endangered species
  3. Reducing wastage, recycling
  4. Natural medicine, organically grown food
  5. Pollution-free cars
  6. Ecology tourism (eco-tourism)
  7. Model cities like Curitiba, Brazil            Curitiba Botanic Garden
  8. Ban nuclear weapons
  9. Free Willy movie, Fly Away Home, etc
  10. Clean Air Act, stop CFC emission
  11. Zoning, proper land use
  12. Ban cloning, genetically modified organisms (GMO) and their products.
This is an open-ended list, and we ask you to continue it and share this lesson with your family and community in a lively and positive discussion.~  

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Study of Wildlife at the Park

It's the web of life at work that keeps the balance;    
truly, silently, the wildlife is part of our lives.
Dr Abe V Rotor 

House sparrow (gurdiun) and Billit China, both of the finch family, share company as gleaners at Disneyland HK. Visitors, particularly children, are amused of their closeness to humans for food and shelter.  Surprisingly they have always remained wild, and resist domestication unlike other birds. They would rather die struggling when confined in cages. Mackie and Markus with their grandma Lima stroll on the feeding grounds of the park, Disneyland HK 2017. Photos by the author.  

Finches to which our maya and house sparrow belong,
are Nature's janitors like the janitor fish;
gleaners of food leftovers, and often beg in number, 
friendly but shy, eyeing at any risk. 

They follow man wherever he goes, his home is theirs;
 in parks, plazas, churches, marketplaces,
they are attractions themselves posing for photographs; 
Audubon studied their species and races.  

 Pavlov recorded their instinct as conditioned learning, 
key to survival. True they are here to stay. 
 in  relationship with humans called commensalism
in return sing with our peace, work and play. 

Tree lizard camouflaged, mimicking the color and texture of its immediate environment, a protective mechanism against predators on one hand, and in lurking for its own prey. Authors's family stroll on the park among trees and natural vegetation. First photo modified from Internet, other photos taken by the author. Disneyland HK 2017  

Reptiles today are older, outlived the dinosaurs, 
What made them survive the Meteor's blast?
Wonder if being small is advantage after all;  
If so, insects, other minutiae are here to last.

Walk pass through, you think the way is clear,
Unseen they mimic the trees, rocks, their abode,
Silence too, is their weapon save the Gecko,
Beware when trespassing into their threshold.

They are Nature's biological agents in science,
Friends of farmers, gardeners and housewives;
     It's the web of life at work that keeps the balance;    
Truly, silently, reptiles are part of our lives.~