The traditional Filipino farmer is not unfamiliar with integrated farming system (IFS), multiple cropping and sustainable agriculture. He who lives in the farm and mainly depends for subsistence from its produce should be ingenious. He has to be, being short always of capital.
In order to maximize production from a farm with a limited area, he had to invent the “bahay kubo” or multiple cropping system. And then integrate it with the raising of livestock animals, poultry and fish, where suitable. In farms large enough to require the constant use of plow, the carabao is always there.
Integrated farming system is indeed ingrained in the culture of the Filipino farmers.
It is not surprising, therefore, that many mango growers and those having farms with perennial crops have adopted this farming system. One such farmer is Nestor Trespeces of Koronadal City (formerly Marbel). He has a 5-hectare farm in Banga, South Cotabato, which is just a few minutes ride from the city.
The farm has more than 300 mango trees aged 11 years old belonging to the Philippine carabao mango variety. This variety is reputed to produce one of the sweetest of all mango fruits worldwide.
The boundaries of the farm are fenced, and a few heads of cattle, goats and “native” chicken freely move around. It is obvious that Sir Nestor is familiar with crop-livestock integrated farming system.
As the year 2009 was about to end, a private contractor induced the flowering of the mango trees with calcium nitrate. Close to 4 months after floral induction, about 31 tons of mature fruits were harvested. This is a clear improvement compared to the previous 3 or 4 cropping attempts all of which are considered failure.
One-third of the harvested fruits, or 10.3 tons, was the share of the owner while two-thirds went to the contractor. The contractor shouldered all the expenses from floral induction to harvesting, plus the risk of loss in case of crop failure.
In contrast to the others, this farm is clean because the groundcover (carabao grass) is always maintained low by the continuous grazing of the livestock animals.
In effect, ruminant animals which graze freely around a farm become biological mowers. It is also known that their movement tends to disturb the insect pests which take refuge on groundcovers. As to chicken and other poultry like ducks, geese and turkeys, they graze on grasses and feed on insects.
Despite the regular spraying of chemical pesticides, no injury has ever been detected on the animals in the farm. In other mango farms, chickens feast on the insects which drop immediately after spraying without any symptom of poisoning.
Where crop-livestock integrated farming system is practiced, however, several factors need to be considered. These include the choice of livestock, stocking density, fencing and security, eradication of noxious weeds, feed supply, and possible damage to the crops. If goat is integrated with mango production, it is recommended that the lowermost branches of the trees should be above 1 meter from the ground. Goats are capable of standing on their hind legs to nibble on the lowermost leaves and twigs. Sheeps are different, they are grass browsers.
It should be emphasized, however, that crop-livestock integration alone will not ensure successful harvest from mango farms. Many factors, including climate, farming practices, cost of inputs and market, affect fruit production and profitability.
(The authors of this article provided free consultancy assistance to mango and other horticultural farms in South Cotabato under the Consultancy for Agricultural Productivity Enhancement (CAPE) program of the Technology Application and Promotion Institute- Department of Science and Technology (TAPI-DOST). The program is implemented by DOST Region XII).