How to pollinate cassava?

Cassava is one of the most important crops for tropical countries. It has a wide range of use such as feed, food and industry purposes. The demand of the growing population encourages increasing crop production. Some of the objectives in breeding for this crop is to produce cassava with high yield, starch and harvest index, low hydrocyanic content, wide adaptation, resistance to pests and diseases and others.

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Cassava is a monoecious crop – male and female flowers are separate from each other. Female flowers open first followed by male flowers (1-2 weeks after). Naturally, self- and cross-pollination occur in cassava.

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Before doing pollination, check if the condition is favorable. It’s better if the sky is clear and there is low chance of rain for the whole day.

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Prepare materials (i.e. glassine bag, uncoated paper clip, marker).

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(L-R) glassine bag, paper clip and marker.

The first step is to determine female flowers that will open that day in the morning. One sure way to know that the female flower will open in the afternoon of the same day is to open one petal of an unopened female flower in the morning and check a drop of nectar on the basal part of the pistil. After selecting the female flower that is about to open in the afternoon, cover it with glassine bag and secure with a clip.

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In the afternoon, go back to your cassava plants. Opening of both male and female flowers usually begin from 12:00-2:00pm and remain open for a day. Gather male flowers available or those that you intend to cross in a small bottle/container/glassine bag.

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Get one male flower and rub the pollen to the pistil of the female flower. Put label on the glassine bag – include the cross combination and date of crossing. Immediately cover the newly crossed male and female flowers with the labeled glassine bag and secure it with a clip. Male and female flowers are highly receptive between 1:00-5:00pm and therefore pollination is best done during these hours. A male flower can be crossed to three female flowers.

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After 1-2 weeks of pollination, cover the crossed flowers with small net bag that will protect the fruit from fruit fly and catch the seeds that naturally fall off at maturity (3 months after pollination.

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Cassava fruit.

Small space for gardening? Do (SNAP) hydroponics!

Have you considered planting vegetables but you don’t have enough space? Conversion of farm lands to residential space is quite alarming since the increasing population will require more food. Learning to farm with limited space is an advantage because you will know how to produce food with your available area (whether small or large).

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil by using nutrient solution in water. Simple Nutrient Addition Program (SNAP) hydroponics is a low-cost hydroponics system developed by researchers from IPB, UPLB. This system is ideal for growing vegetables in small areas.

To do SNAP hydroponics, you need to establish your seedlings. I previously wrote how to do it here. Now that you have your seedlings, you need to prepare styrofoam/plastic cups (or used coffee cups), knife/blade, coir dust, plastic bag, packaging tape and growing boxes (fruit boxes).

Get your cups and create 4-6 (~1-2 inch long) small slits on the sides near the bottom and dig a hole on the center bottom of the cup. Fill the cups with about 1-inch thick coir dust. Carefully transplant one seedling in the cup with coir dust and lightly press the media around the base of the transplanted seedling. Water the cups with care.

Create holes fitted for your cups – you can either trace the cups and cut it with a blade or use heated tin cans.  Depending on the size of your cup, you can create 6-8 holes on the lid. Line the bottom of the box with plastic (make sure that the plastic entirely covers the bottom to hold the solution). (Note: you can close all openings on the box using packaging tape to prevent entry of mosquitoes).

Put the cups into the holes of the lid on the box created earlier. Prepare your SNAP solution by mixing 25mL of SNAP A to 10 liters of tap water and then stir well followed by an equal amount of SNAP B (with stirring).

Fill the bottom of the growing box with the SNAP solution to a level where the bottom of the cups is touching 1/2 inch of the nutrient solution. Close the bottom box with the lid of the box containing the cups with seedling. Examine the box for any leaks and make necessary repair.

Place the growing boxes to areas with roof (to prevent the rain from getting into the system) but will best receive morning sunlight. Closely monitor the set-up.

Replenish the box with SNAP solution whenever needed.

(source: PJA Santos and ETM Ocampo, UPLB)

5 tips to pass the licensure examination for agriculturists (LEA) in the Philippines

Are you graduating from your agriculture-related course and eligible to take the licensure examination for agriculturist (LEA) this 2019? Or does your institution require you to pass LEA?

In the Philippines, agriculture graduates may opt to take the Licensure Examination for Agriculturists. Government offices often require their job applicant RA 1080 (or board/bar eligibility). Passing LEA is a win-win factor when applying for a government position because you have an advantage for agriculture-related positions plus you can use it if you are interested with other vacancies.

First timers or not here are my 5 tips to pass the licensure examination for agriculturists.

Disclaimer: Tips are based on my personal experience.
1. Start early

If you are still in college,  focus and study well. I sound like your parents repetitively telling you to study, but it’s true in all board exams – you need to put effort and take college learning into your heart and mind because in the long run it will be worth it. The board exam is composed of 6 subjects (crop science, animal science, crop protection, agricultural extension, soil science, agricultural economics) – it will be information overload if you force yourself to study everything 1 day, 1 week or even 1 month before the board exam.

2. Join review sessions/self-review

Do not lose hope if you fail  the no. 1 tip and did not take your undergrad courses seriously. Board exams take months after graduation to happen; you still have plenty of time. You can enroll in a review center and then aside from your review sessions you can create or join groups to have additional reviews outside the review class. If you are on a budget, you can also do self-review – there are a lot of review materials offline and online you can use to refresh your knowledge.

3. Expect the unexpected

Everything under agriculture can be one of the questions – as random as where does macopa originate? It’s better if you diversify what you already know. Read recent events on agriculture. Do not solely rely on one reviewer, be resourceful and look for other review materials (from other schools or previous takers).

4. Be prepared

Aside from getting your mind prepped for the questions, you also need to set everything needed in place. First, make sure that your course has required units to be eligible to take the exam. Check the schedule of application submission and exam dates. One week from the time of the exam, look for accommodation that is comfortable and near the examination venue. A day before the exam, find your designated classroom. Before going to the venue make sure that you are wearing proper attire, have all the documents and exam materials needed (i.e. pencil no.2, black ballpen, eraser, basic calculator, light snacks, water, medicine kit (with loperamide and paracetamol, just in case)). As much as possible, do your restroom duties before taking the exam. Always arrive early or on time for the 3-day exam period (during the first day, go to the venue much earlier because you need to process some documents before the exam proper). Relax during the exam, don’t let your anxiety block you from answering; you have 4 hours allotted time for each subject – use it wisely.

5. Pray-do your best-pray

On the day/s of your exam, all that you can do is relax, pray and apply all the best of what you’ve learned. Aim for the top place and not just a passing grade; failing the top place will lead you to passing level while failure from just-passed mark will bring you directly to failed grade. After the exam and you know that you did the best that you can, pray and pray until the announcement of results. Pray that you will pass and have the courage to face whatever outcome might be. If you pass, then congrats! However, if you fail, then take another one next year.  DO NOT LET A SINGLE EXAM DEFINE YOU.

I hope these tips will somehow help you ace the LEA. Good luck, takers!