“Strawberries, apples, and nectarines can only be grown in cold places.”
This used to be true. But not anymore.
A Bicolano agribusiness expert, Leonardo Libreja, has shown these fruits can be successfully propagated in tropical places like his own Camarines Sur province.
Using shoots of strawberry and grapes and marcotted green apple and tangerine from Hawaii, he was able to plant these fruits in the family farm in Ocampo, Camarines Sur and make them bear fruit.
Marcotting is a plant propagation technique that induces shoots or stems to take root while these are still attached to the parent plant or tree.
Libreja studied agribusiness at the Camarines Sur State Agricultural College (now Central Bicol State University of Agriculture), graduating in 2011. He then transformed the family farm into an integrated system, combining aquaculture production and propagation of vegetables. His scheme of planting vegetables planted on bamboo trays touched by pond water integrated with ornamental plants won him an award as outstanding young farmer in the province.
With assistance from the Department of Agriculture (DA), he .acquired modern skills in propagating food crops and ornamental plants in a course in a 1-1/2 year training in the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.
Back in the family farm in Camarines Sur, he began his experiments to grow strawberries, grapes, apples and tangerines. It took him seven years to perfect his technique which basically makes use of a gradual acclimatization process.
Libreja explains that he exposed the strawberry plant to the heat of the sun for varying lengths of time until he was able to create shoots that were able to survive the hot Philippine climate.
Today Libreja sells ready-to-bear-fruit strawberry plants to farms in Camarines Sur and Albay for P300 per plastic bag, which has become a steady source of income for the 33-year-old agribusiness wiz.
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.
He also plans to put up a garden store selling unique plants like grafted roses with different colors in each branch or a citrus tree with different branches bearing different fruits.