MSU-GSC Commences Growing Kaong in the City
Ben G. Bareja, Feb. 20, 2013

February 19, 2013 should be a historic day in growing kaong or sweet palm (Arenga pinnata), at least in the Mindanao State University-Fatima Campus, General Santos City, Philippines. For locational reference, the PAGASA meteorological station lies nearby westward at latitude 6°3’N and longitude 125°6’E.

Taking advantage of temporary respite from rainfall brought by typhoon Crising yesterday (Feb. 19, 2013), a small kaong plant was balled out from its original location in the campus where it had been growing naturally for three years. This particular kaong was in the way of a concrete floodway under construction and thus needed rescuing.

It was then transplanted into the corner hill of an area intended for the growing of 43 kaong plants intercropped with fruit crops and other selected crops.

This area for growing kaong (4,300 sq. m) represents about 23 percent of an aggregate area of around 1.8 hectare that was recently identified as site and which the herein author has initiated development into an experimental multicrop project applying intercropping scheme. This area is a grassy land with abundant shrubs and trees, mainly the alien invasive neemtree. It is under the management of the university’s College of Agriculture. 

One hundred sixty five (165) main crop hills have already been staked with a spacing of 10 m x 10 m in square pattern and holing has commenced. Practical methods were employed in locating and staking of the hills, without clearing the area or otherwise cutting any tree. Neither a theodolite nor a peg or a long surveying tape measure was used. Students in the college performed the activities as part of actual training in farm establishment.

Beside kaong, the layout plan includes the planting of jackfruit, avocado, pummelo, and lanzones (this last with lanete / bintos trees preserved) as main crops at separate portions of the project area.

The seed from which the transplanted kaong grew originated from a single palm that the herein author planted in MSU-GSC campus in 1998 using as planting material a wildling collected from Glan, Sarangani. It is unfortunate that the exact date  of planting and first flowering was not recorded, but only that it started bearing fruits in either 6 or 7 years from planting. It has already ceased to produce new flowers, but neither the last flowering was recorded. It is in fact due to this realization that this web page is built: for recording.

To be clear, we are unaware of the management practices applicable in growing kaong. We do not know what is its optimum planting distance. Nevertheless, its diameter from drip line to drip line seems to be narrower compared to African oil palm and coconut. It is therefore possible that a spacing of 8 m x 8 m  or shorter would suffice in growing kaong as a monocrop.

MSU-GSC engages in growing kaong in the city.

That we are adopting the 10 m x 10 m spacing is borne more out of convenience and taking into consideration the shading effect of intercrops. A filler crop will be inserted at the center of each square to transform the planting pattern into quincunx. Fruit intercrops will be planted between adjacent kaong plants.

According to the modified Corona system of classification, General Santos City has a type IV climate in which rainfall is more or less evenly distributed throughout the year (click here to read more).

However, we used to describe the climate in the MSU-GSC campus as “dry and very dry” until the last few years. More recently at this time when the subject of climate change has become popular, there seems to have occured a climatic shift. Rainfall has become more frequent and that “dry and very dry” just vanished.

Several typhoons have in fact hit Mindanao in succession particularly the regions close to General Santos City. This has brought rain showers to MSU-GSC campus. With this change added to that single kaong which successfully grew in the campus, there is reasonable ground to be optimistic that indeed this plant can be mass produced in the city away from its forest dwelling.

It is expected that this project will generate data that will be useful in better understanding the biology and environmental requisites of this palm species. This initiative likewise seeks to address the technology gap in growing kaong.

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