Strawberry industry headed for better times - study
- Rudy A. Fernandez () - August 8, 2011 - 12:00am

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet , Philippines -  Much better times await the local strawberry industry in this Cordillera valley.

Reason for this optimistic outlook is that clean planting materials of this fruit crop can now be produced through tissue culture.

“In the past,” reported Joan D. Bacbac of the Department of Agriculture, “strawberry producers in La Trinidad would contract fellow farmers for their planting materials. Usually, these planting materials consisted of different varieties planted together in a plot.”

“Planters were unmindful of varieties nor concerned with cleanliness of planting materials,” added Bacbac, Agriculturist II of the DA-Regional Field Unit-Cordillera Administrative Region (RFU-CAR).

The sorry state of strawberry production in the Cordillera ended when DA-CAR and the La Trinidad municipal government collaborated in the production of clean planting materials through tissue culture.

Planting materials (runners) imported from either Japan or the United States are studied and evaluated. Once found to possess the desired qualities, runners are taken from these plants and used for tissue culture.

Bacbac explained that with the use of a microscope, they would get the tip of the runner or meristem and plant in test tube. After a month, the meristems are cut and transferred into new bottles.

A single meristem could produce up to 200 or more meristems in six months. Once transferred into the nursery and upon the development of roots, these plants become the mother plants from which runners will ensure.

With tissue culture, DA-CAR researchers thought of controlling mites, the leading pest of strawberry, but it led to other incidental benefits as well.

Now on its second year, the production and distribution system for clean planting materials for strawberry did not only lessen the incidence of pest and diseases, but also improved yield.

“A plant produced from tissue-cultured mother plant could yield about 400 grams of fruits compared to a non-tissue cultured plants which could only produce about 200 grams,” Bacbac said.

Strawberry has exquisite taste and aroma. The juicy fresh fruit is sweet yet tart – perfect for dessert, salad, and healthy snack. Moreover, its sweet one-of-a-kind aroma has inspired scents for perfumes and oils.

These heart-shaped fruits are also highly nutritious, pointed out the Benguet State University (BSU) based in this capital town.

A cup of strawberry satisfies 140 percent of person’s required daily dosage of vitamin C. It contains big amounts of vitamins B2, B5, B6, and potassium, fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, iodine, magnesium, manganese, and folic acid.

Strawberry likewise contains phytonutrients and antioxidants that fight destructive free radicals, which can transform elements into chemicals that damage cells in the body.

Some even regard strawberry as “food of youth” because it can reduce the risks and effects of age-related diseases. For example, it can provide an increased protection against rheumatoid arthritis.

Strawberry can also prevent the decline of motor and cognitive skills related to Alzheimer’s disease, lower occurrence of gout, stabilize blood sugar (glucose), protect against macular (skin) degeneration, improve wound healing, alleviate varicose veins, strengthen the gums, and melt gallstones.

Although strawberry is nutritious, Filipinos rarely get to eat fresh fruits because these have a low shelf life, noted the Los Baños-based Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCARRD).

“If left in room temperature, ripe strawberry can only stay fresh for about a day. Even when refrigerated, the fruit only stays fresh for three to four days,” it added.

Moreover, the country’s stable source of strawberry is Benguet. Since this province is situated 3,000 meters above sea level, it would take a long time for the harvested fruits to get to the market.

The good side is that there are now ways of processing strawberries.

By cooking them into various products, the shelf life is lengthened. Hence Filipinos can enjoy the fruit in the comfort of their homes.

BSU, headed by Dr. Roger Colting, president, has the largest strawberry farm in the country and is also one of the leaders in strawberry processing through its Food Processing Center (FPC).

Dr. Jane Avila, BSU-FPC project manager, said that the ideal variety for strawberry processing is Sweet Charlie, which is characterized by small to medium-sized berries that are very sweet when ripe.

“The size of Sweet Charlie makes it easier to cut and cook,” she said. The strawberry preserve is BSU’s most famous product. The FPC has also ventured into baked strawberry products, the highest-selling being strawberry crumble. Others are strawberry purees, kisses, and tarts.

The center is also developing dried strawberries for the market.

BACBAC BACBAC OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE BENGUET STATE UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY-PHILIPPINE COUNCIL DR. JANE AVILA DR. ROGER COLTING FOOD PROCESSING CENTER FORESTRY AND NATURAL RESOURCES RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT LA TRINIDAD STRAWBERRY SWEET CHARLIE
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