Benguet’s salad veggies, flowers and more now grown in Pangasinan town
TAYUG, Pangasinan—Who says broccoli, cabbages and cauliflowers can only grow in areas with a cool climate, such as Benguet province?
Researchers of a seed production company in this eastern Pangasinan town have shattered the myth after developing varieties of upland vegetables that grow in the warm lowlands.
“There’s now a technology… for (growing Benguet) vegetables even in hot areas,” said Herlo Atole, farm manager of Allied Agro Tech Inc. (AATI) here.
AATI is the research and development arm of Allied Botanicals Corp.(ABC) which, according to its website, is the country’s only 100 percent Filipino-owned seed production company.
“We have been promoting these vegetable varieties because not many of our farmers know about them,” Atole said.
But there are much more than highland vegetables in AATI’s 23-hectare farm in Barangay C. Lichauco, a farming village nine kilometers from this town’s poblacion.
The company also grows the main ingredients of the iconic Ilocano dish pinakbet consisting of different varieties of eggplants, okra, ampalaya, tomatoes, onions and squash.
It also has upo, patola, radish, mustard, cucumber, celery, sweet corn, melons and watermelons.
AATI grows herbs such as parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, sprouts, greenhouse varieties of pepper, lettuce, tomato and cucumber, potato and sorghum.
The company also takes pride in its flower offerings—about 18 kinds of flowering plants ranging from antirrhinum ( a genus of plants also known as dragon flowers or snapdragons) to zinnia. These plants will all be shown during the AATI’s annual open house on Feb. 5 to 7.
“The open house is our way of showing to our farmers that ‘Hey, we have developed new varieties. Come and take a look.’ We will also conduct free lectures to update farmers,” Atole said.
Urban, edible landscape
Lectures on seed handling, urban and edible landscape, flower production and vertical gardening, and hydroponics, drip irrigation, greenhouse production and grafting have been scheduled on Feb. 3 and 4.
ABC was founded in 1984 by its late president and chief executive officer, Willy Co, to breed hybrid sorghum seeds for the Philippine market. It then set up its first hybrid sorghum breeding and seed production farm in Barangay Anolid in Alcala town, where it produced its first commercial hybrid sorghum variety.
In 1996, AATI was established primarily to breed and produce seeds for pinakbet and other lowland vegetable varieties.
“Our aim is to produce seeds that are pest resistant and have high yield,” said Atole.
New varieties, which were either developed here or abroad, have to undergo trials by planting them in the 23-hectare farm so their performance and adaptability in a tropical setting could be observed, he said.
Seeds of the successfully tested varieties were produced on a commercial scale after receiving good responses from farmers.
Atole said every time his company developed a new seed variety, it included an accompanying package of technology.
“For instance, a newly developed eggplant variety follows a unique cultural management program when planted. It requires less fertilizer. We advise farmers about the management [system] that they should follow for the variety to perform well,” he said.
“We don’t carry chemicals because we want environment-friendly products. We are not 100 percent organic, but we use organic inputs,” he said.
Not many farmers and residents here are aware of the company and what it could do.
Mayor Tyrone Agabas said he had learned about AATI’s capability only when he was elected in 2013. That would be a good reason for the town to promote AATI as an agri-tourism destination, said Agabas, whose wife Marlyn is a Pangasinan representative to Congress.
Visitors are given guided tours of the experimental farm across the road fronting the AATI main building. From the Carmen exit of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx), motorists can locate the AATI farm via a 35-minute drive along the national road traversing the Pangasinan towns of Rosales and Sta. Maria.