Growing Grapes in the Tropics

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GRAPES are just one of the fruits often misunderstood – from the kind of climate it prefers to thrive on up to the amount of space it requires to grow. Most people think the grapes in the market are imported from countries with a cold climate or that one needs a wide hectare of land to propagate it. Nestor Dignadice, founding president of the Grape Raiser Association of the Philippines and Enthusiast, Inc. (Grape, Inc.) is just one of the people who challenge those notions.

“We have the best climate, the best soil but we were never encouraged, or we were made to believe that grapes will not prosper here in the Philippines,” he said.

Dignadice, a member of the Davao Inventors Association, became interested in grapes when their group decided to form a cooperative that will engage in agriculture. While his peers chose to grow the most popular crops such as banana, rice, cacao, and coffee, he focused on a different crop. He researched about grapes and discovered it has been seriously grown in La Union. He also found vineyards in General Santos City. In other words, grapes can grow in tropical countries like the Philippines.

“Init gyud ang gusto sa grapes. Di pud siya gusto ug landong. Ang gusto niya kung pwede naa’y 8 to 10 hours nga init (The grapes like sunlight. It does not want shade. It prefers to be exposed to the sun for about 8 to 10 hours),” Dignadice said.

He also discovered that the varieties in these areas are not diverse, so he is among the grape growers who strive to get variety as much as possible. He started getting seeds from La Union, Cebu, Batangas, Bataan, General Santos, and Cotabato to diversify his seed bank.

“Daghan groups sa Pilipinas pero ang Mindanao man gud is the one seriously going into rare varieties. Naay daghang rare diri sa Mindanao (There are many

[grape growing]

groups in the Philippines but growers in Mindanao are the ones seriously going for rare varieties. There are many rare varieties here in Mindanao),” he said.

 “We have to upgrade our varieties. Kay kanang La Union kanang red cardinal, karaan na na nga variety, the 1970s. Kanang Gensan karaan pud na nga variety 1960s pa na. (That variety in La Union which is the red cardinal has been grown since 1970. The one in Gensan has been grown since the 1960s),” he added.

In his nursery, some of his seedlings are Red Globe, Black Concorde, Red Cardinal, Miracle Grapes, Baikunor, Talisman, Everest, Crimson Seedless, Einset, Green Malaga, and Catawba. Depending on the variety, his prices begin at P150 per seedling. Dignadice said grapes are ideal plants for urban gardens or in residences who want to have grapes in their homes for daily consumption.

“Kini pwede nimo i-grow sa imong backyard, front yard and you can even plant it in a pot. (You can grow this one in your backyard, front yard, and you can even plant it in a pot),” he said. He said if one plans to have a huge grape picking area, 500 to 1,000 sq. meters is enough to have a vineyard.

“Nakita pud nako nga one-year or less lang mamunga na siya. Tapos 3 times a year pa gyud makabunga (I observed that it bears fruit after a year. It can also bear fruit three times a year),” Dignadice said.

“Di man sa ingon ana ka sensitive gyud ang grapes. Crucial kaayo ang grapes during sa first six months niya pero after 1-year maglisod ka’g patay. Bisag imo pang bunluton na unya ibalhin sa lain mabuhi lang gihapon na. Ingo nana siya ka gahi (Grapes are not sensitive. The first six months is crucial but after one year, it would not die easily. Even if you pull it straight out from the soil and transfer it, it will survive. That is how resilient it is),” he added. Dignadice said he has seen the potential of grapes in farm tourism which he plans to do on his 2.5-hectare land in Catalunan. He is pushing it to be mainstream or at least be given attention and support. But for now, he urged people to learn to propagate it first in their households.

“We encourage everybody to try planting at least a vine or two at their homes. The easiest way for us to propagate grapes nga makatuon sad ang mga tao is to try it growing sa balay (We will help people learn about propagating grapes by growing it at our homes),” Dignadice said.

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