At the corner of Pili Drive and IPB Road is the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). This vast complex houses training facilities, experimental farms, laboratories, the International Rice Genebank and the Riceworld Museum. Riceworld is IRRI’s public awareness facility. It showcases basic information about rice, some of the Institute’s research outputs and a collection of artworks and artifacts related to rice. The museum is open from Monday to Friday (except public holidays) from 8:00AM to 5:00PM. Entrance is free.
If you are visiting UPLB-IPB and still have time to spare, I highly recommend visiting Riceworld along the way. Riceworld have lots to tell you about the most important cereal crop in the world.
If you have any questions about Riceworld please leave a comment below. Happy growing!
I’m fascinated with these cactuses. They thrive in neglect. They produce large, beautiful and fragrant flowers. They bear sweet, delicious and nutritious fruit. It is always a treat to be able to pick these fruits and eat them while they are still warm from the from the sun. Dragon fruits are the sweetest when they are overripe. When they are almost bursting. Homegrown dragon fruits are always better than those you see in malls. Dragon fruits stops ripening the moment you remove it from the pitaya plant.
I wanted to show you how easy it is to pick this fruit from the plant and peel it using your hands so I made a live video. This is how I did it.
The umbrella is to keep the phone under a shade. It is going to cook and shutdown if it is streaming while under the full sun. Maybe not, but I’m not going to risk it.
I am so delighted to meet Doc Boy and Doc Weng in UPLB-IPB. I played it cool but, deep inside, I was jumping for joy. They are my heroes. They are true Filipino scientists who work tirelessly to improve the lives of others at their own expense and great personal sacrifice. I trust them and I thank them for their service to our nation and the rest of the world.
I’m a science buff. I read about he lives of scientists. I’m inspired by their selfless sacrifices to improve our lives today and in the future. The lifestyle we are living today are from those who looked for answers for us. With great courage they explored for us. Their efforts shaped our modern world.
Doc Boy and Doc Weng are respected scientists in their fields. And their expertise in hydroponics vegetable production is a valuable asset to the growing industry of hydroponics food production. Can you imagine how much they are turning their back from? When I asked Doc Boy if he would consider Doc Weng and himself as the foremost experts in hydroponics in the Philippines he humbly replied that he wasn’t sure.
Hydroponics is the future. Why? Because NASA is experimenting with hydroponics food production in outer space. In space where we will be living in the future long after we changed the climate and made most of the world inhabitable, we will be living in space and we will be growing plants with hydroponics.
Hydroponics is the future because our population is growing larger. Arable lands are growing smaller. They are caused by the mismanagement of natural resources and yes, climate change. Soon with limited space, and with a huge population, we will be living in a crowded world and, by the powers that be, will be required to produce food with hydroponics.
Doc Boy and Doc Weng are heroes for lending their expertise for the benefit of the nation. Their important, innovative and pioneering work in making hydroponics accessible to Filipinos is paving the way for our future. A future that I’m confident will be a bright one.
Please talk about your Filipino scientists, talk about how they are changing your lives for the better. Tell them how much you appreciate their work. I know it’s harder than tweeting about your favourite TV show or celebrity. You might get the usual “edi wow.” But who cares. It’s just one time. How hard can it be?
A few months back, we had a discussion about whether or not to use styroboxes because it’s bad for the environment. My answer is: it’s complicated.
We all agree that styrofoam is plastic. Are there other alternatives? Alternatives have a higher carbon footprint than plastic. Consider the energy cost of styrofoam fruit boxes compared to, let’s say, cardboard fruit boxes. You might be surprised to find out that manufacturing new styrofoam boxes uses less energy (less carbon footprint) than recycled cardboard boxes. Styrofoam box production won’t cease if we stop using them as growing boxes. They are meant for grape production not SNAP Hydroponics growers.
Styrofoam is recyclable. In other countries they are collected and recycled. Currently, our country lack the facilities to recycle them. As hydroponics growers we are actually helping the environment in more ways than one.
By holding onto these styrofoam boxes in the form of growing boxes. We are keeping them off our land and oceans while we wait for our government to provide us with the necessary facility to recycle them.
We are turning the world into plastic and we must do our part to stop that from happening.
Please do not get rid of them! We’ve been living with poisonous houseplants throughout our life time. Not knowing this is one the reasons why these plants remain as common houseplants. But with the internet, most of us are learning about the presence of these poisonous common houseplants to the detriment of the plants. Most of the toxicity reports you find on the internet are often fake news or quack science. For example: the ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) are reported to be carcinogenic which is totally untrue. With proper care and caution these poisonous common houseplants poses no danger to anyone in our household. Almost all plants have a tendency to be toxic to humans in one way or another. Even, the seeds of the apple fruit contains enough toxins to be fatal. Below is a list of the most common poisonous houseplants in the Philippines. In no particular order:
Mother of Millions (Bryophyllum daigremontianum)
A common succulent known for it’s vegetative propagation via plantlets that forms at the edges of it’s leaves. In parts of the world it’s a big problem for cattle farmers because cattle can sometimes eat its leaves and cattle dies as a result. All parts of the plants contains the toxic chemical daigremontianin.
Aside from being toxic mother of millions can be extremely invasive outside of its natural range.
Budda Belly Plant (Jatropha podagrica)
All parts of this plant, specially the seeds is toxic due to the presence of curcin. It’s quite a common potted houseplant because it’s hardy and can survive neglect. It’s part of the Euphorbiaceae family or Euphorbias. Most members of this family are known for its white, milky sap that can be an irritant and at worst, a poison.
Euphorbia (Euphorbia lactea)
Euphobia lactea is a popular succulent plant. It has spines and has a triagular or rhobic cross section.
My wife is going to kill me for this but in the name of safety I have to tell you about the time they got poisoned by this plant. We were classmates back in high school. She, along with her friends decided to cook with this plant because they read that the plant can be edible. They ate what they concocted and ended up being poisoned the next day. One of her friends is able to make it to school but her whole face, eyes, nose, lips became swollen because of the poison from this plant.
Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia seguine)
Another common houseplant. It has large green leaves with white spots near the middle. It used to be more common a couple of decades ago. It doesn’t contain toxic chemicals but can be considered dangerous because of the presence of raphides in its tissues. Raphides are calcium oxalic crystals that can be a major irritant. Chewing the leaves of the plants can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms, including intense numbing, oral irritation, excessive drooling, and localized swelling.
Desert Rose (Adenium obesum)
This is a popular succulent because it survives in xeric watering regime but has no issue being wet during the rainy season. It’s easy to grow and propagate and produces pretty pink flowers all throughout the year.
Its sap contains cardiac glycosides. In Africa its sap has long been used to poison arrows to bring down large game.
ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
ZZ plant is a popular house plant native to east Africa. It is very easy to grow and propagate and requires very little maintenance. Because it can survive xeric and low light conditions it can be grown indoors.
This plant used to be very common in our town specially schools because it can survive the dark school corridors with very little watering. Because of the internet hysteria back in 2010 describing the plant as extremely poisonous the plant has lost its popularity and are how very rarely seen in public settings. Reports of the plant being extremely poisonous even cancer causing are exaggerated claims. The plant comes from a plant family with known poisonous family members but the plant has been used for medicinal purposed in its native Africa for thousands of years.
Houseplants; Poisonous ≠ removal
If you have any questions please leave a comment below. As always good luck and happy growing!
It’s been weeks since I transferred my rooted costoluto genovese pomodoro to my small plot. Sadly, I have to report that one of them didn’t make it. The next few days after the transfer, the tomato plants are getting heat stressed from the intense summer sun but I ignored them. One of them couldn’t handle the heat and wilted away as a result.
I just realised that the summer tropical temperatures must be too much for this variety of tomatoes. My first attempt was quite successful because it’s been quite cold during the months of January up to and including March. Even though theres been occasional rain showers all throughout April and May it’s been incredibly hot and humid nonetheless.
I’ve decided to put up a net to lessen the amount of sunlight the plants are getting. It’s a start but I don’t believe it will help because the temperatures even under a shade is at 35°C.
It’s been another couple of weeks since this picture has been taken. Even the largest one among the three doesn’t look very healthy because of the constant heat stress. I’ll continue to monitor them for a few more weeks and see how far they would go in this heat.
I am a huge fan of the “Forensic Files.” It’s a TV show from the 90s. It reveals how forensic science is used to solve various crimes, accidents and disease outbreaks. The show is in a whodunit format. It is famous for popularising forensic science and inspiring the show “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” which was a massive hit. Early in the life of the show it was called “Medical Detectives.” If you haven’t seen it I recommend you watch it. It’s fascinating to learn about how criminals almost committed the perfect crime but somehow still got caught because of something seemingly insignificant as leaves, twigs and seeds.
Forensic Files is one of my favourite TV shows. I clearly remember the first ever episode I saw back when I was in 7th or 8th grade. I usually turn on the TV during lunch time at home. Forensic Files was shown at noon because cable programming repeats their prime time line up from the previous night (7PM-12MN) the following morning (7AM-12NN). I got instantly hooked from the first episode I saw. The episode was about how diatoms was used to tie the suspect to a crime scene. The foreboding tone of the narrator, Peter Thomas, gives me a slight chill every time I watch the show and makes the show even more suspenseful and engaging.
Every aspect of the forensics are explained clearly for the audience to understand. And every technique is explained. How the chemicals used take action and do what they do. There are also a myriad of different databases introduced through out the series the names of which can sometimes be amusing. The database for the soles of shoes which comes in very handy when identifying shoe impressions in crime scenes is called “Sole Mate.”
I’ve just gotten back to watching the series again and I remembered how many times plants has been the hero of the show. For example, in an episode called “Seedy Intentions”, the crime seen is a grassy area. Various plant materials clung on to the perpetrator’s clothes and vehicle. These plant materials was sent to expert for testing and they where able to tie the perpetrator to the crime scene because the plants are of the same species and of the same stage of development as the plants around the crime scene.
In another case a suspect tried to stage an accident to cover up the murder of his own wife. In the suspects recollection of events, he said they got into an accident with their truck driving into a river. He was unable to rescue his wife from drowning. Burdock seed pods where found in the hair and clothes of both the victim and suspect but there are no such plants close to the accident scene. When investigated further they found out that there are plenty of burdock plants in the couple’s property. It was then concluded that the suspect murdered his wife at home then drove all the way to the river to stage the accident. The burdock seed pods is what tied him to the crime scene.
There are a couple of ways to watch the show online. If you have Netflix, the show is in nine collections of around forty episodes each. You can also watch the show for free on YouTube. The official “Medical Detectives Youtube channel” have the episodes collected by season via playlists. The channel has stopped uploading videos but there are plenty episodes uploaded in the channel for you to enjoy.
As always feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions. Good luck and happy growing!
In the Philippines the epiphytic, fruit bearing, cactus of the Hylocereus genus, are known as pitaya. The fruits are known as dragonfruit. Pitaya, like all cactus species, is native to the Americas but has been naturalised in many parts of the world. Pitaya can be grown as an ornamental or for it’s fruits. Cactus and succulent enthusiast grow them because their stems make excellent root stock for ornamental cacti. I’ll teach you have grow pitaya and share my experience with these fascinating cacti.
Pitaya can be grown from seeds but a mature plant can be realised faster if one is to grow them via cuttings. If cared for well it will grow to be big enough to start bearing fruit. Growing pitaya from cuttings is very easy. All you need to do is bury around 10 cm (3in) of the cutting to the ground and wait for it to grow. You don’t even need to water. The cutting will be spending most of its time developing a root system and you won’t even know if something is happening. Be patient. Start watering when you start seeing shoots. Depending on the size and health of the cutting new shoots will form in 1-3 months. Frequent rains during the rainy season may cause the cactus to rot at the soil line. Just let it be. As long as the vascular bundles are intact, they usually callus and the cactus let the fleshy parts rot. You can either train the plant or let it just go about its business of growing. The fruiting season usually starts late May until September. The size of the cactus tells if the cactus will bear fruits in the fruiting season. Just make sure your cactus is healthy and thriving during the fruiting season and they’ll reward you with fruits.
Pitaya’s are epiphytic, they grow on trees, in nature. They are used to shade because they grow in the shadow of a trees’ canopy. As you can see in the picture below. Parts of our pitaya plants that are exposed the direct sunlight are turning yellow while parts of it that spends part of the day under the shadow of our house is a healthy shade of green.
During the fruiting season the pitaya plant bring forth buds that develops into flowers.
However, not all buds develop into flowers. Buds may sometimes turn yellow and fall off. This happens when the plant doesn’t feel like it will not be able to develop the fruit due to issues like light, water and/or nutrient availability.
Flower buds develop quickly and can open in 2-3 weeks. Flowers only open at night. The surest sign that the flower will bloom during the night is if it looks like it’s going to burst and you can see parts of the white petals.
The flowers are large, showy and fragrant. It opens around 8PM. Bloom peaks around 12AM to 3AM. By 4-5AM it is already starting to wilt. The video below is a time-lapse of the nocturnal pitaya bloom.
Pitaya’s only bloom at night because in their natural range, the unforgiving desert heat keeps pollinating insects away during the day. By morning the next day the flower has served it’s purpose and the plant abandons it.
The wilted flower will drop off or rot away and the remaining parts develops into dragon fruit over a few weeks.
Dragon fruit stops developing when it is taken of the pitaya plant so making sure that the fruit is ripe during harvest is important. Ripe dragon fruits have a bloated appearance. Depending on the variety, the color of the peel varies. My pitaya has a red peel and red flesh. Wait for the ripe color of your fruits to be the dominant color until only the tips of the protrusions remain green or yellow. You can also give the fruit a gentle squeeze. It should be soft but offer resistance. To harvest gently twist the fruit off. You may use snips if you don’t want the peel to be damaged. The sharp protrusions can be trimmed off.
Our pitaya only gets attention when it’s flowering and fruiting yet it thrives and rewards are efforts (or lack of it) with fruits. It’s one of the easiest fruiting plants to grow. In the future I’ll be posting about how to train them. I plan on starting a separate grow where I’ll be giving the plant proper care and grooming and see how much fruits it will bring me.
If you have any question please feel free to ask. Good luck and happy growing!
Living home alone for the past few days made me think a lot on where I’ve been, where I am and where I want to be. The past few months, a rough rainy season, made me realise that no matter how easy life is, it doesn’t take that much for you to find yourself at rock bottom or be so close to losing those you hold dear the most. If you are getting tired of reading my babble please do me a favour: remember to tell your loved ones what you truly feel about them no matter how cheesy it would turn out to be.
I’ve developed an irrational fear of rain and bad weather. It was triggered by the disaster that is typhoon Maring on the 12th of September 2017. Our area is prone to regular minor flooding during the rainy season. On the evening of the 11th of September my wife and I prepared. I took our car outside of the subdivision where it will be safe and we took all important belongings upstairs just in case. Disaster management people are already laying down ropes preparing for the worse. For most people it was just rain. Everybody is still waiting for any class suspension related news. In only a couple of hours the storm has generated a raging flash flood.
Our stuff are already upstairs and we are taking a break when get got a call from one of our in-laws. Water is starting to rise where I took my car to be safe. I immediately took off with my car keys. When I left the house the flood water is just below my waist. The flood water level falls as I go further down the street towards an intersection where I need to make a turn. As a I reach the intersection The flood water is over my ankles but it is moving so fast that I cannot take a step without loosing my footing. I took off my slippers and the fast moving water took it in an instant. My car is just a few meters away. I can hear the faint noise of people shouting in panic. I can see faint light (flash lights) cutting through the darkness but it is a total blur because of the very low visibility because of the rain.
I tried crawling but that failed spectacularly. When I got up I realised I must have broken my electronic dongle so I won’t be able to start the car anyway. After spacing out for a bit because I’m now in total darkness, I only just realised the power is gone, I realised that I am not waist deep in flood waters that moments earlier are knee high. On my way back a neighbour ask me if my car is out there and I told him yes. He asked me if I think it is lost and I told him yes. His car is out there too.
As I work my way back to our house only a few meters away, I’m struggling to find my way back to my home, to my family. The water is rushing opposite the direction in need to go. The ropes laid out earlier doesn’t help. It doesn’t help when you are struggling against raging waters. It’s very easy to tire, lose your grip and be swept away. I managed to get by using the walls in front of the houses along the way. The situation is getting worse really fast. A couple of houses away and I’m already screaming manically for my wife and in my kids. If I don’t make it back home and I don’t ever get to see them again I want to let them know that I tried my best and they are the that they are the most precious things to me.
I ran out of walls on the right side of the road. Another set off walls are on the left side. I need to swim across the speeding water to get to the other side. Good thing I know how to swim. I swam across and got swept away by the water. It took me back a couple of houses but I made it and started my way back using the 5 foot walls. The walls have pointy ends. Good thing I was wearing denim shorts. Neighbours are kind enough to light my way.
I eventually made my way back home. My wife is already in tears and so was I. I’m drenched and miserable I don’t even know if I was crying back then. I lost my car, almost lost my life and more importantly my family. However, mother nature is just getting started. I only had a few minutes to catch my breath when my neighbors started calling for help. I assessed the situation and decided I’m not going to risk it. Not while I can still call for help.
We frantically tried to look up contact numbers for Gumaca Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO). We only know them from Facebook and pictured below is how far it took us in the Facebook app.
The power is down and the internet is out, we can’t get the full picture for us to read the contact numbers. We tried of find a number from all the cached content on the phone. We found one and frantically called. They understood our concern and quickly dispatched people. We waited for what seems is an eternity. At the same time we tried to reach my brother-in-law who is with Gumaca MDRRMO. He is unreachable as well. It’s been taking too long and we called the MDRRMO number again. To our horror we were actually talking to Atimonan MDRRMO. They dispatched people to the place they thought we are in and didn’t find anything. After spending a few minutes telling them to stay put and calm down because we are calling for help and help is coming, now I have tell them help isn’t coming. My next door neighbours are three seniors, a person with disability and father and a child. They are my wife’s close relatives. I had my work cut out for me.
I just tell them that I will get the child first. The first floor is now well and truly under that I need to get people through the second floor door. I needed to get them across a wall, across the flooded side of our house (1.8m deep) and up and over to the terrace and through the second floor door. The child (let’s call her G), is calm in collected to my surprise. I asked her to wear the floaty my kids use when they swim. I asked her to grab on and we swam across. G is a very brave little girl. I ferried the rest of the family across as well. I don’t know how I managed but I’m glad I did.
It took a few days for everything to sink in. However, 2017 is not done with me. There was rain and constant flooding in closing months of 2017. Three strong typhoons moved across our part of the country? in the last quarter of the year alone. As the weeks pass by I grow more and more concerned about the weather and the rain. I get so anxious and jumpy when there is bad weather. I developed a phobia. My heart races when I hear the rain beating down upon us. I sometimes cry myself at night when it is raining hard because it brings so much bad memories. I can’t focus on anything because I’m always distracted by the possibility of a rain.
So what does this have to with SNAP and gardening?
Gardening played a big part in the success of my rescue effort. My SNAP setup happens to be on the right side of the house. I used the bench where my growing boxes previously were, flood took them away, as boosters so I can get my neighbours across the terrace.
I’ve grown so passionate about gardening through the years. And even more so this past few months. I used gardening to take my mind of things. Seeing my plants grow make me so hopeful for the future that everything is going to be OK.
I’ve also been very active in online communities specially SHG since the flood and I managed to grow it even bigger. Somehow that helped me in getting my confidence and fighting spirit back.
About My Misfortunes
I don’t blame it on anyone. I blame it on climate change. It is real. It is happening. And the Philippines has front row seats. I remember my grandmother always telling me that disasters only come to our town every decade or so. But recently the weather has gotten more and more extreme. The summers are hotter and the rainy season is wetter. In the the last few years we had Ondoy, Glenda, Maring not to mention Yolanda, one of the strongest landfalling typhoon on record. PAGASA said on their website that the weather have really gotten extreme in the past few years but commented that it is “too early to call it a trend.”
So what can we do about climate change? We can stop ourselves from contributing to it. Learn about it. Talk about it. More importantly do something about it. We are doing this not only for ourselves but for future generations. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Do some gardening. Learn about nature and how we fit in the puzzle and you’ll have a greater understanding that our actions can profoundly affect the world we all live in.
God Entrusted the Earth to Our Stewardship
Let me leave you with a quote from Pope John Paul II’s sermon delivered on the 13th of December 2000:
The Apostle Paul states that “our homeland is in heaven” (Phil 3: 20), but he does not conclude that we can passively wait for our entry into this homeland; rather he urges us to be actively involved. “Let us not grow weary in well-doing”, he writes, “for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6: 9-10).
Biblical revelation and the best philosophical wisdom agree in stressing that, on the one hand, humanity strives for the infinite and eternity but, on the other, it is firmly planted on earth, within the coordinates of time and space. There is a transcendent goal to be reached, but along a path that unfolds on earth and in history. The words of Genesis are illuminating: the human creature is tied to the dust of the earth, but at the same time he has a “breath” that unites him directly to God (cf. Gn 2: 7).
As I was planting the acacia (Albizia saman) seeds I got from UPLB, I wondered how often other people take time to plant a tree. I wish people plant trees often. I asked my self the same question and I wonder.
Trees are a big part of my childhood. The oldest memory I can recall is a picture of the gigantic dapdap tree by the seashore. In this scene I remember my father holding my hand as we walk. A fishing net is draped over the dapdap’s branch. This is the place where children and adults from our neighbourhood gather. As a child my grandmother will always ask: “Saan ka pupunta?” My reply is always: “Dyan lang po sa dapdap.”
This tree is amazing. I’ve been around it so much that I remember clearly how it changes in the span of a year. It’s usually leafy in the cold but relatively calm months of December to February. By the summer months, it attracts migratory (or just unusual) birds. Bird shooters often come to hunt them with their airguns. It goes full bloom near the end of the summer. It’s flowers are orange to red and from afar the canopy is mostly red. When the wind blows the flowers sway and it looks as if the tree is burning. By the middle of the year it is bearing fruits. Bats make the tree their home during this period. There are so many of them I almost pity the people who lives near the tree. They probably couldn’t sleep while the bats are in a feeding frenzy. For the rest of the year it’s the rainy season. The tree goes leafless from time to time because of the strong winds and rain specially during the peak of the typhoon season.
Just a few years ago my brother told me that the dapdap tree is gone. Some how he knows that this will come as a sad news for me, and it is. I don’t even have a picture of it. Just memories. It is something I will never ever see again. Unfortunately, most of the trees I recall from my youth is gone.
I can only recall a couple of times when I was asked to plant a tree and this was when I was in high school. I know these trees grew to maturity because I personally checked them when I was in college. Both of them are gone now as well.
It’s been many years since I realised that majestic trees are disappearing faster than people care to notice. For the past few years, I pledged that I will plant at least three trees on my birthday and each time I failed. That was a mistake. I no longer wait for any occasion to plant a tree. I just plant them whenever I can.
If it has been a while since you last planted a tree. Please do plant one. If you are in the city plant one in a nursery pot. In a few months you’ll have a healthy sapling. Bring it with you on you next trip to the province. Ask your lola where you can plant your tree. Use the GPS feature on your phone so you know exactly where your tree is. Visit it as often as you can. Share pictures of it on social media. Let the world know you planted a tree. One day many years from now, you’ll have a majestic tree that owes its life to you. It might even outlive you. Isn’t that a pretty thought?