Best Practices in Fruit Conservation: Lesson Learned from an Expert
On-farm conservation has allowed what was once a neglected coconut plantation in Laguna (Luzon, Philippines) to become home to different fruits and nut species. The said technology is one of the most effective ways to conserve fruit species as gleaned from the experiences of Dr. Roberto Coronel, a retired University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) professor.
Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) was one of the first fruits intercropped with coconut in the RC Fruit Conservation Farm. (Source: www.worldisround.com)
On-farm or home garden conservation stemmed from men's acquired knowledge of domesticating useful plant species, selecting the best fruits, and propagating them by means of seeds or other non-seed propagation methods. With forest areas being lost to illegal logging and land conversion, on-farm conservation primarily serves as a duplicate repository of fruit germplasm collections maintained in research institutions (ex-situ conservation).
In 1986, Dr. Coronel acquired a coconut plantation that stands in a gently rolling terrain at the foot of a mountain. He then began to intercrop the area with rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) and lanzones (Lansium domesticum). This was the birth of what will be known today as the RC Fruit Conservation (RCFC) Farm in Calauan, Laguna. The name "RC" stands for the owner's initials.
Over the years, Dr. Coronel acquired different fruit and nut species and varieties from local sources and different tropical countries. He then planted these varieties in the farm. Dr. Coronel explained that since then, the farm's focus shifted from mere production to biodiversity conservation, promotion, and dissemination.
The four-hectare farm-garden showcases a unique cropping system to reduce typhoon damage. Moreover, the non-usage of inorganic pesticides and fertilizers makes the farm environment-friendly and a haven for other forms of biodiversity such as birds and small mammals. It also serves as a research and extension laboratory where students can study and observe various propagation methods used for specific crops.
At present, the Farm has collected and established 210 fruit and nut species representing 117 genera and 48 families. It also has a collection of 120 outstanding fruit varieties, most of which are officially registered with the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA). Some indigenous fruits at RCFC Farm include: biasong (Citrus micrantha), lipot (Syzygiujm curranii), pili,(Canarium ovatum), and galo, (Anacolosa frutescens).
After almost 25 years of existence, the farm-garden continues to flourish. But the lifework of Dr. Coronel is far from reaching completion. In the future, he envisions the RCFC Farm to eventually become a part of national botanical garden.
(Ranell Martin M. Dedicatoria, KMD-SEARCA)
______ Report based on Agriculture and Development Seminar Series (ADSS) presentation of Dr. Roberto Coronel entitled "On-Farm Biodiversity Conservation: The Case of the RC Fruit Conservation Farm" held on 19 January 2010.