Monday, September 14, 2015

DA says Bicol ready for El Niño
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, Sept. 13 (PNA) -- The regional office for Bicol of the Department of Agriculture (DA) based here over the weekend said it has already prepared a contingency plan to mitigate the impact of El Niño phenomenon which, according to the weather bureau, would affect the region starting late this year until the early months of next year.

The mitigation plan is anchored on four strategies: optimize production in non-threatened areas; minimize losses in threatened areas; convert to other crops and prepare for rehabilitation; and interventions in water management, according to DA Regional Executive Director Abelardo Bragas.

To optimize productivity in non-threatened areas, he said, production support will be provided such as distribution of fertilizers and drought-tolerant seed varieties while crop insurance subsidy will be arranged for affected areas to minimize losses.

Drought-tolerant varieties include GSR11, 5a, 12a and 2 rice varieties for upland and rainfed areas and other crops such as legumes like cowpea, winged bean and mungbean, among others, that can tolerate below normal rainfall condition, Bragas said.

These GSR hybrid rice varieties are among the options under climate change-related stresses wherein they have been tested in both rain-fed lowland and upland environments as top performing lines with up to 62.5 percent advantage over check varieties.

Cowpea, Bragas said, can be planted either before or after rice enriches food production from a land area as it has been grown for centuries in the tropics, being well adapted to prevailing environmental stresses.

It tolerates drought and can grow on poor, even acid, soils where other food legumes do not perform well.

Bragas said cowpea, which complements the mainly cereal diet of Filipinos, is an important crop as it is a rich source of proteins and calories, as well as minerals and vitamins.

Similarly, winged beans, which have several common names like Asparagus Pea, Goa bean and four-angled bean but called locally as “parapagulong”, are typical to humid climatic and grown in many places of the region for its nutritious and nitrogen fixation properties.

This bean is said to be blessed with optimum health benefits as it contains the highest proportion of calcium which makes bones strong and prevents breakage while Vitamins A and C, along with several minerals, make up the legumes that endow the body with powers to fight diseases, he said.

Mungbean (Vigna radiata), popularly known in the Philippines as mungo and mainly used as human food, is one of the cheapest sources of plant protein which contains at least 27 percent protein.

It is also a good source of minerals such as calcium and sodium while its dried seeds are high in vitamins A and B, and when sprouted, come as rich in vitamins B and C.

Mungbean is drought-tolerant and requires a warm climate during its growing period and the temperature and humidity prevailing in the region during dry spell situations are suited for optimum yields of this important crop, Bragas said.

In water management, he said, his office has prepared provision of shallow tube wells and pump irrigation systems in open sources and advises irrigators to repair and clean water canals and irrigation systems for efficient drainage and water conservation.

To conserve moisture in vegetable farms, he said, farmers should apply mulching using plastic sheets, rice straw or any other available materials.

For livestock raisers involving both large and small ruminants, sheds should be provided and the “cut and carry” feeding practice must be applied while silage making is more applicable during the drier months that also need the provision of drinking water to livestock to minimize heat stress, the DA regional chief said.

Bragas said that although the government assures the public that food security and health measures are in place to counter the impacts of the impending El Niño phenomenon, farmers should adopt these good farming practices so that its effect on their earning capabilities is minimized.

Moreover, he said training, briefings, assessments and workshops with stakeholders, program implementers and local government units (LGUs) as well as periodic monitoring and reporting and information campaign via local media organizations have also been put in place.

“We expect way-below-normal rainfall during the last quarter of the year until the early part of 2016 due to El Niño which would draw increased temperature, resulting in low crop yield in rainfed and irrigated areas,” Bragas said.

Under this drought situation that would also cause heat stress to livestock and poultry production, farmers should follow good farming practices, he added.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) defines drought as three consecutive months of way-below-normal rainfall condition or 60-percent reduction from average rainfall.

This condition, which some Bicol provinces and several parts of the country have started to experience this month, according to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), PAGASA’s mother agency, will be at its worst this year.

It will affect 29 provinces in October and 50 more provinces, including all six in Bicol, by the end of the year, DOST Secretary Mario Montejo said in a recent warning.(PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN