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Feature: Nutritious root crops can help farmers cushion impact of El Nino

By T. Villavert

Iloilo City (17 February) -- Farmers must always be ready for any eventuality to sustain their productivity and with the dry spell hitting a number of hectares of rice lands, it is time to focus on planting root crops as it does not require so much water.

This was suggested by Director Larry Nacionales of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Region 6 in a PIA interview, where he said that what it only requires is diligence and discipline.

Director Nacionales said that there is also a good potential for planting camote or sweet potatoes, even in low land rice areas. This can be planted and mulched with "dagami" or rice straw.

Mulch is any type of material spread or laid over the surface of the soil as a covering, designed to retain moisture, reducing the need for constant watering. Mulch will enrich the existing soil and will prevent rain and other elements from washing it away.

According to a study mulches keep the soil and soil born diseases from splashing up on lower plant leaves and make paths less muddy. It also makes a nice home for spiders and other beneficial insects that will move in and help keep the pest population in control. And finally, it's easy to either rake up or work into the soil when it's time to plant a new crop or put the vegetable garden to bed.

Director Nacionales said that while planting materials for camote is sourced from Capiz, he noted the island province of Guimaras has also several areas planted with camote.

According to a study, the leaves or so-called "camote tops" are a good source of vitamins A, B and C, iron, calcium and phosphorus. The tubers (roots) are high in carbohydrates and are mainly starch.

Root crops are rich in carbohydrates--affordable and main source of energy. The study also revealed that root crops and legumes being carbohydrate and protein sources, respectively, are functional foods. Root crops and legumes are good sources of dietary fiber, a food component associated with the prevention of several chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, colon cancer, and control of diabetes.

The Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology in a recent study determined the effects of local root crops and legumes in bringing down cholesterol levels among humans with moderately-raised cholesterol levels.

The data from National Statistical Coordination (NSCB) here, showed that in 2008, Region VI has an area covering 6,575 hectares planted to camote and a production output of 44,600 Metric Tons. The province of Iloilo has a production output in year 2008 of around 14,373 Metric Tons (MT); Negros Occidental- 18,031 MT; Guimaras-2,490 MT; Capiz-4,303; Antique-3,327 MT; Aklan-2,076 MT.

The DA 6 Director said that aside from root crops, our farmers can also select varieties of high commercial value crops or vegetables and fruits to farm that does not require so much water.

"Our diligence and discipline as capital to tend for these crops will bring good yield-nutritious food for the family and community, and also added income?that will sustain our efficiency and sustainability," Nacionales said. (PIA6) [top]

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