DA assists El Niño-affected farmers in Bohol

FARMERS and farming communities affected by dry spell caused by the onset of El Niño, particularly in Bohol, have received assistance from the agriculture department.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said the DA through the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) has already conducted a series of cloud-seeding operations that successfully induced rains over drought-affected areas in Bohol.

DA Central Visayas regional director Angel Enriquez said the cloud-seeding operations started August 30 and brought rains over the towns of Sierra Bulllones, Pilar and Alicia, adjacent towns and watershed areas, based on the report of Bohol provincial agriculturist Larry Pamugas.

Bohol has experienced an unusual dry spell last month, as its average rainfall dipped to 6.8 millimeters (mm) from an average of 138 mm during the last three years, said Pamugas.

Director Enriquez said the DA-BSWM will continue the cloud-seeding sorties that were requested by Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto on behalf of farmer-members of Irrigators’ Associations of Malinao, Bayungan, Capayas and Talibon.

Alcala said the DA will provide the same cloud-seeding services to farming communities and provinces that would experience dry spell episodes. The DA through its regional field units will also provide farmers’ groups with shallow tube wells and drought-tolerant crop varieties

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) in its August 15, 2012 advisory said El Niño episode has already commenced and would persist until the first quarter of 2013. Initial areas that would experience below normal rainfall include portions of Central and Western Visayas, eastern portions of Northern and Central Luzon, including Palawan, and Western Mindanao.

Alcala said the DA will also issue advisories and recommendations through tri-media outlets on how to mitigate the adverse effects of El Niño phenomenon.

This early, he said farmers should be vigilant to save available water supply. In particular, the DA through the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) will require ‘gatekeepers’ of irrigation systems to properly schedule the time and volume of water to be released.

The DA will also teach more farmers to employ controlled irrigation (CI) technology or alternate wetting and drying of rice fields, as recommended by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice). The CI technique entails inserting into the soil a perforated plastic pipe (4 inches in diameter and 8 inches long) to monitor the field’s water level. When water is no longer seen inside the pipe, it is time to irrigate again.

On the brighter side, the DA chief said the dry episode may be beneficial to some crops due to longer sunlight and photosynthesis.

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