The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) held its 2017 WESVAARRDEC FIESTA in Cabatuan, Iloilo, Covered Gym, August 21-24, 2017. WESVAARRDEC stands for West Visayas Agriculture Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development Consortium and FIESTA stands for Farms and Industry Encounters through the Science and Technology Agenda.

The FIESTA termed “ASTIG” in Region 6 has adopted the theme Advancing Science and Technology towards Inclusive Growth in Region 6.

One of the topics in the Techo Forum was the Muscovado Sugar Commodity where the S&T Based Farm in sugarcane and Muscovado Sugar Production was discussed by Doctor Nelibeth F. Rodelicto of the University of Antique.

Dr. Nelibeth F. Redelicto explained the chemical properties of organic muscovado which has the following compositions: Moisture = 3.93g/100 g, Crude Fat = 0.289/100g (with the standard limits), Ash = 2.69g/100g (with the standard limits), Crude Protein = 1.11g/100g (above the standard limit) and Carbohydrate = 91.99g/100g (below the standard limit).

Muscovado is the raw sugar produced from sugarcane juice extracted from backyard sugar mill or sugar crusher with the use of additives like lime, coconut milk and baking soda. According to WESVAARRDEC Director Prof. Lucia Lastimoza, lime is mixed with sugar cane juice to prevent deterioration of sucrose into fructose and glucose in order to crystalize sugar into sucrose. Baking soda is only used when the cane juice has plenty of sediments, if none, baking soda is optional.

Dr. Redelicto has shown in the video the stages undergone in the production of organic muscovado from the indigenous practices on hauling of sugarcane (using carabao with cart made of bamboo) delivering the canes to the muscovado sugar mill, the weighing, the extracting of sugarcane juice, the collecting of sugarcane juice, the boiling of sugarcane juice into syrup, the adding of additives, the testing of the viscosity of syrup, the transferring of viscous syrup to cooling trough, the tossing of viscous syrup up to packaging in sacks.

Mr. Edgar Bantolo Noble, proprietor of Century Muscovado Mill in Laua-an, Antique, discussed the Best Practices on Sugarcane Farming Practices. He said that one variety of the sugar cane they are planting in Antique for muscovado sugar production is the PHIL 97-3933 with Parents PHIL 91-54-0497 X Phil 87-15, Production TC/Ha 58,33, Lkg/Ha 122.90 and Lkg/TC 2.10, PHIL 97-3933 is the same as La Carlotta but green, not flowering and self detrashing,

However, he has given emphasis on the other variety they are planting, the PHIL 99-1793, with parentage Phil 93-236-3301 X Phil 2477, that is good germinator, fast growing and is erect to recumbent; no flowering observed; Broad drooping leaf blades.  Leaf sheaths are greenish purple with an inner unciform auricle with very few trichomes. It is self detrashing. Stalk Characteristic are medium size (2.99cm), waxy, cylindrical, dark yellowish purple stalks with corky cracks/patches. It has round eyebuds with wings. Yield Characteristic are medium (1.89-2.14 LKg/TC) to High Sucrose (2.15 LKg/TC and above); High Tonnage (100 TC/Ha and above), with millable stalks of 2.37 stalks per stool at harvest, with average yield (6 location) 1.84 LKg/TC; 143.67 TC/Ha, with yield potential of 2.12 LKg/TC; 170.69 TC/Ha. PHIL 99-1793 is resistant to smut, downy mildew and leaf scorch, and susceptible to yellow spot.

Other variety is Phil 99-1793 which performs best in SONEDCO, Mabinay and Passi Mill Districts in LKg/Ha significantly out yielding Phil 8013 and Phil 8477. It also obtained the highest average LKg/Ha and TC/Ha in 6 locations.

Growth Stages of sugarcane – the cane point after a month of planting starts germination and starts bearing tillers within the second month until the fourth month, and stalk elongation starts from the fifth month until the eight month and starts ripening on the ninth month until the 12 month. Sugar cane from the first month, after planting ripens up to 12 months, the full maturity of the cane. It runs a year time to become harvestable.

The cane points are planted 4,000 to a hectare with one meter distance from each other.

Ash Application is done

Ash application – Wood ash is an excellent source of lime and potassium for the farm. Not only that, using ashes in the farm also provides many of the trace elements that plants need to thrive. Another use for ashes is to change the pH of the soil. Wood ashes will raise the pH and lower the acid in soil.

Mulching is done

Mulching is a long-time practice to prevent loss of moisture and to control weeds. Mulch is a layer of organic or inorganic material placed over the root zone of a plant to benefit the roots and the soil. Organic materials may include wood chips, bark, pine needles, straw, leaves, or grass clippings. These materials will eventually decompose, adding organic matter to the soil and need to be supplemented or replaced on a regular basis. Mulching is needed to conserve moisture in the plant root zone; To prevent weed growth; To stabilize soil temperatures; To prevent the spread of soil-borne diseases; Increase soil fertility through decomposition of mulches; To increase water infiltration and prevent soil compaction; and To improve the appearance of landscapes.

After the discussion an open forum was held which was focused on the problem of milling the canes since the muscovado sugar mill in Cabatuan has stopped, due to the seasonal nature of milling. The milling activities run only few months from the milling period and nothing to mill within the planting season until the canes mature and become ready for harvesting.

The mill, the employees and laborers have nothing to do until the next milling season and the miller cannot maintain them during off season. While the problem of milling muscovado sugar is the worry of the sugar planters, the maintenance of the mill remains in the hands of miller, a reason for the closure of the sugar mill. Unlike Mr. Noble the owner of the Century Muscovado Mill in Lauan-an, Antique who has found a way to maintain his work force. Noble has taken his men as regular workers by making use of them in his other farm works, taking care of the animals (chicken, pigs, cows and others) and giving them incentives like health insurance and other benefits.

Something must be done to the maintenance of a muscovado sugar mill to increase production of muscovado since people are now aware of the nutritional value of muscovado and prefer its use than the refined sugar. Mr. Bonifacio Cerbo, a retired employee of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) attested to the demand for muscovado because of its nutritional value and the problem of planters to mill their canes due to the absent of muscovado sugar mill. He also said that “to put up a mill with efficient crusher, it will need a 30-50 hectares of sugarcane plantation and 7 million pesos to by the crusher.

A move to gather data on the part of the group of muscovado sugar planters to determine the area planted to muscovado sugar production in Cabatuan to consider the possibility of having an efficient sugar mill is about to happen. With the mill, existing land area devoted to muscovado sugar will continue to be planted to sugarcane and may increase their area and those not planting sugarcane may be encouraged to plant, thereby increasing the area planted to sugarcane, to keep the mill functioning.