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Urban Agriculture: Coping with Crisis Towards Food Security

Part 6: Vegetables you can harvest in less than two months 
to boost immune system

Urban Agriculture potentials to improve health in metropolis set-up

Urban agriculture manifests relevance to socio-economic perspective and ecology. It provides integrative development by creating income opportunities, promoting social inclusion by reducing gender inequalities, and aids management of city wastes and biodiversity.

Health as a commodity. Commodification in all of its possible forms is omnipotent in the process of urbanization. Most of the time, the gears of industrialization are concentrated in the urban areas, making the metropolitan areas as centers of activities with regards to the circulation of commodities. This means that urbanization can be seen in the lens of development of the society, but can also manifest disturbing burgeoning issues in the aspects concerning the human capital (determining human economic value). Some of the forefront issues of urbanization are health and food security.

In broader view, urban settlements expose people to an array of embedded risks, they might not even notice. However, while problems stated above make urban living seem dreadful, Impacts of Urban Agriculture report states that, “[…] agriculture can become an integral part of good environmental management of urban space” (Urban Harvest, 2007).

This means urban agriculture is an approach to extract potentials to address certain problems by transforming small idle areas into a productive, valuable space. Aside from having a green space, urban farming is an opportunity to manage waste, land, and ecology while only requiring usage of resources that are innately available in the area (Midmore et. al., 1991).

Literally confined, due to the community quarantine in hopes to manage the spread of novel coronavirus or CoViD 19 – health, food supply and nutritional balance of the people are at risk for urban, peri-urban, and rural areas. Basically, urban farming is an opportunity to improve food security and address nutrition inadequacy and improve immune system to combat the pandemic.

However, malnutrition is not a brand-new matter of concern, as the Food and Nutrition Research Institute or FNRI (2019) reported the prevalence of obesity among adolescents and adults continues to grow in the previous years, and even escalated three times for children in the past 15 years. Factors include reduced physical activities, imbalanced nutrition caused by the limited access of healthy varieties of food, and heightened intake of processed and salty foods commonly consumed in the poor urban areas (FNRI, 2019).

Additionally, Filipinos are reported to be at risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs); cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases and cancer, which account to 68% of mortality rate (WHO, 2019). This calls for multi-sectoral collaboration in order to effectively create compelling and impactful progress in the health sector.

Crop planning

An advantage of urban agriculture is being in control of the type of crops to cultivate considering the household needs and availability of resources. This is called crop planning. The Agricultural Training Institute – Regional Training Center Northern Mindanao (ATI-RTC X) specifically defined crop planning as:

Crop planning considers what, when, where and which plants grow in relation to their requirements for space, sunshine, water, maturation, season of planting and tolerance for each other. It involves a cropping pattern in which different categories of vegetables are raised, followed by a system of crop rotation to keep the cycle going and to provide a suitable, healthy environment for plants to grow. For a family food garden, crop planning means raising vegetables that will provide for the nutritional needs of the household members all year round.

The Agricultural Knowledge Management Section of ATI-RTC X suggests specifically for family or household nutrition to cultivate easy to grow, productive, insect or disease-tolerant, indigenous varieties of crops that can be harvested over a long range of time. Short and long maturing crops are suggested to be mixed to balance nutrition supply of both food and soil or cultivation area. It is also practical to prioritize crops with more than one edible part that are protein, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamin-rich (Table 1).

Table 1. Nutrient-rich crops from Crop Planning BIG Series – Agricultural Knowledge
Management Section of ATI-RTC X

This last part of the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) Program’s Urban Agriculture Series is an introduction to several crops for a household’s nutrient resources, such as legumes, root crops, young corn, and other easy to grow crops that can be harvestable in less than two months.

Growing and harvesting vegetables in less than two months

There are times when you need a crop to run its course in a short time frame in order to keep the garden productive and provide food always on the table. Here are the following crops to consider when you are planting against the clock.

Snap Beans. Snap beans are useful in warm summer weather. In addition to cropping rather quickly, beans are soil builders that benefit ensuing crops by fixing atmospheric nitrogen in their roots then releasing it when the plants die off. The fastest to produce are the bush types, ready to harvest in 50+ days.

Okra. Start harvesting in 50 to 60 days. The plants can produce for ten to 12 weeks. It grows and bears seed pods, which quickly turns them black and kills them. Start harvesting a few days after the okra blooms fade.

Eggplant. Generally, first harvest of eggplants begins 60 days from transplanting. Eggplants should be harvested when the fruit surface is glossy and tender and before seeds within the fruit become brown.

Chili Peppers. Grow hot peppers any time of the year. Hot peppers are ready for harvest in 60 days after sowing.

Bitter Gourd (ampalaya). 45 days after transplant it will start to flower and in 60 days you can start your harvest. Harvest frequently with an interval of 2-4 days since ampalaya ripens easily. It is best to harvest fruit early in the morning.

Pole Sitao. Begin harvest at 50 days from planting, depending on the pod diameter and toughness. It is harvested by hand every 3–4 days for up to 30 times during the growing season. Harvest early in the morning (6–8 am) to avoid weight loss.

Summer Squash. Summer squash gives another option for warm weather.  Numerous varieties can be harvested in less than two months.  The earliest varieties come in just over 40 days.  Look for ‘Yellow Crookneck’, ‘Early Prolific Straightneck’ or ‘Raven’.

Cucumber. Cucumbers are another option for the middle of summer. The best varieties for quick production are the early pickling types and also require less space than the normal season types.

Beets. Beets don’t mind some heat. While roots mature to a harvestable size in 50+ days, baby greens can be used in salad mixes as early as 30 days.  ‘Early wonder’ is a good variety for earliness, tasty greens, and well-formed roots.

Green Onions (leeks). Normally most leeks mature 100 to 120 days after sowing the seeds, but a few varieties mature in as few as 60 days. However, transplant leeks are easily propagated and will produce green onions very quickly in less than 2 months.

Kale. Greens, including collards, kale, mustard and turnip, all qualify for the rapid harvest category.  While they are fairly flexible for growing temperatures, best flavor comes with cool weather. They can be harvested as baby greens to use in salads, or many varieties will produce full sized leaves in under 60 days.

Bok Choy. Asian greens are also fast producers of cool season vegetables. These small sized brassicas can produce mature crops in about a month.

Pechay. Harvest as early as three weeks after planting or between 30-40 days after sowing. Harvest preferably in the afternoon to minimize postharvest losses. Upon harvesting, wash the plants, trim old leaves and remove roots.

Water Spinach (Kangkong). With enough sunlight, the leaves can be harvested in as early as 60 days from sowing. To harvest, cut the top leaves leaving up to 2 leaf nodes from the roots. New stems will grow from these leaf nodes in just a few days. In about 2-3 weeks, the new stems will be ready for another round harvest.

Spinach. Spinach is another great option.  As with other greens, spinach can be harvested leaf-by-leaf for baby greens, or whole when mature.  A few early performers include ‘Space’, ‘America’ and ‘Bloomsdale’.

Lettuce. In all its colors and forms, is a good consideration because this can be harvested leaf-by-leaf for baby greens, or whole when mature in 45 days.  Heading types may take a bit too long, but the leafy types that would work are too numerous to list.

Baby corn. Can take from 60 to 100 days to reach harvest depending upon variety and the amount of heat during the growing season. To meet these criteria, harvest ears 1 to 3 days after silks become visible. Harvest baby corn every 2–3 days. At this early stage of ear development, the ear can grow very quickly, becoming too large in just 4–5 days. Some field corn varieties may need to be harvested before the silks emerge. ###

Writers:

Myer Mula, SAAD Program Director

Jessamae Gabon, SAAD Public Relations and Communications Officer

 

REFERENCES

Agricultural Knowledge Management Section. (n.d.). Crop Planning [PDF]. ATI-RTC X. Retrieved from https://ati.da.gov.ph/rtc10/sites/default/files/BIG_0.pdf in April, 2020.

DOST-FNRI. 2019. Nutritional Status of Filipino Adolescents, > 10-19 years old [Slide]. Food and Nutrition Research Institute, DOST. Retrieved from https://www.fnri.dost.gov.ph/images//sources/eNNS2018/ADOLESCENTS_and_WRA.pdf in April 2020.

IIRR and NAPC. 2016. Integrated Community Food Production. A compendium of climate-resilient agriculture options [PDF]. International Institute of Rural Reconstruction and National Anti-Poverty Commission, Philippines.

International Potato Center. 2007. Impacts of Urban Agriculture: Highlights of Urban Harvest research and development, 2003-2006. Urban Harvest. Peru.

Augustin M, Khoo C and Knorr D. 2018. Food for an Urban Planet: Challenges and Research Opportunities. Retrieved from Frontiers in Nutrition https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5780399/ in July 2020.

Midmore D,  Niñez V and Venkataraman R. 1991. Household gardening projects in Asia: past experience and future directions [PDF]. Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center. Taipei.

Tanggol, F. 2019. Investment in noncommunicable diseases prevention and control will save lives and contribute to the Philippines saving up to 4.8% of annual GDP. Retrieved from World Health Organization, Western Pacific Philippines, Joint Press Release https://www.who.int/philippines/news/detail/29-10-2019-investment-in-noncommunicable-diseases-prevention-and-control-will-save-lives-and-contribute-to-the-philippines-saving-up-to-4.8-of-annual-gdp in April 2020.

UNICEF Philippines. 2019. UNICEF: Many children and adolescents in the Philippines are not growing up healthily. Retrieved from Press Release: https://www.unicef.org/philippines/press-releases/unicef-many-children-and-adolescents-philippines-are-not-growing-healthily in April 2020.

World Health Organization. 2018. UN Joint Programming mission to the Philippines: UN supporting the Philippines to tackle the epidemic of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Retrieved in https://www.who.int/ncds/un-task-force/joint-programming-missions/philippines-may-2018/en/ in July 2018.

 

ILLUSTRATION IMAGE SOURCES

Baby Corn. https://assets3.thrillist.com/v1/image/2718592/792×527/crop;jpeg_quality=60.jpg

Bitter Gourd. https://img1.exportersindia.com/product_images/bc-full/2019/8/3722170/fresh-bitter-gourd-1565253355-5037035.jpeg

Eggplant. https://www.tasteofhome.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Chinese-eggplant-shutterstock_2033421.jpg

Chili Pepper. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327324

Kangkong. https://www.iplantz.com/plant/895/ipomoea-aquatica/

Okra. https://res.cloudinary.com/grohealth/image/upload/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1583504572 /DCUK/Content/iStock-916731072-1000×600.jpg

Pechay. http://richardmacalintal.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/pechay-investment-640×330.jpg

Pole Sitao. https://www.sowseeds.co.uk/products/yard-long-bean-seeds

Spinach. https://www.almanac.com/sites/default/files/styles/primary_image_in_article/ public/image_nodes/spinach-leaves.jpg?itok=mG7aNosB

Summer Squash. https://www.johnnyseeds.com/dw/image/v2/BBBW_PRD/on/ demandware.static/-/Sites-jss-master/default/dw85c3939f/images/products/vegetables/ 02450_01_yellowcrook.jpg?sw=387&cx=436&cy=106&cw=1000&ch=1000

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Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) Program Online ISSN: 2718-9791
Published by the SAAD National Program Management Office Editorial Board

Contact | Follow @da.saadprogram

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte
Republic of the Philippines

William D. Dar, Ph. D.
Secretary, Department of Agriculture

Myer G. Mula, Ph. D.
Program Director

                  

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