Monday, December 28, 2015

(Yearender) Organic agriculture key to Bicol’s sterling achievements in rice production
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, Dec. 28 (PNA) – Year 2015 saw Bicol maintaining its dramatic feat in sustainable farming first noticed in 2013 when the region was cited as the country’s top organic rice producer.

Sustainable agriculture, more popularly known as organic farming, is an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that last over the long term.

It provides or secure human with safe and nutritious food, enhances the quality of environment based upon which the agricultural economy relies and makes efficient use of non-renewable resources and on-farm resources that are integrated into natural biological cycles and conditions.

The system also makes farm operations economically viable and enhances the quality of life of farmers and the community or society as a whole and the success achieved by Bicol in this field is part of the Aquino administration’s implementation of Republic Act 10068 or the Organic Agriculture Act (OAA) of 2010.

The region’s adoption of organic agriculture based on the OAA -- which aims to enrich soil fertility, reduce pollution and farming’s environmental destruction, prevent natural resources depletion, save on imported fertilizer, and protect the health of farmers and consumers alike -- has been a proven approach for increasing productivity and income.

Indeed, the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Bicol regional office gave this year more attention to the region’s organic farming communities from where the country owes around 74 percent of its organic rice production.

According DA Regional Executive Director Abelardo Bragas, Bicol also contributed 44 percent to the country’s overall production of other organic crops owing to their expansion of organic farming with the Php6-million upland farming project that boosts the region’s hefty contribution.

Under this project, the region’s organically-produced upland rice was further developed for its market potential as some of these traditional strains have been reported to outperform some modern rice varieties.

The advantage of these traditional varieties is in higher grain production and drought tolerance which has become a critical trait amid the prevailing climate change threats.

Upland rice varieties generally have an average yield of only one to two metric tons per hectare, but selected Bicol varieties which the DA projects use in reviving vast upland rice farms in the region exceed such yield average.

Based on a report of the International Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Bicol had 63,699 hectares of upland farms, some of it rendered idle by unfavorable weather conditions and pest in the past.

DA’s development of the region’s upland rice is very timely as these varieties have the potential to withstand higher temperature and less water supply which is needed amid the threatening climate condition.

Upland rice production is ideal since it can make up for any shortfalls in flood-prone lowland irrigated areas.

This is specifically during wet season cropping when flooding in lowland prevails.

Hence, uplands are now rice production frontier in Bicol showing improved yield through enhanced varieties and cultural management practices that suit the soil, climatic and social conditions.

The DA started it all from its establishing in 2012 of a technology demonstration farm in the nearby Bula town from where the agency took off with its project for the revitalization of organic agriculture in the region.

Established within the vast agricultural property that the Pecuaria Development Cooperative Inc. (PDCI) is tending in Barangay Lapigna, Bula, the one-hectare demo farm has been planted to organic and aromatic rice varieties called JM2 and Basmati.

The experimental farm located within the 800-hectare Pecuaria Rice Central also grows traditional varieties such as RC 160 and RC 18.

RC 160 is a high-yielding variety developed by the Central Luzon State University while the MS 16 (Maligaya Special), which has good eating quality, is from the PhilRice.

Since then, until now, the project has made PDCI the leading single producer of organic rice in Bicol and among the five certified organic collaborators chosen by the DA nationwide for the Development of National Organic Rice Seed Production Systems with Informal Sector.

The seeds produced from this techno demo farm is being procured by the DA and distributed as starter seeds to farmers engaged in organic rice production.

The project is one of the DA’s programs and projects for the promotion of sustainable agriculture.

“This is a model farm that demonstrates the unity of Bicolano farmers evidenced by the success of PDCI towards the region’s commendable rate of rice production,” Bragas said.

DA’s revitalization of organic agriculture in Bicol and the entire country is part of the Aquino administration’s National Rice Program being implemented for increased production towards rice-self sufficiency of the country and more income for Filipino farmers to liberate them from the bondage of poverty.

Apart from the PDCI organic agriculture demo farm, a four-hectare rice farm established in Barangay Binanuanan Sur here by Carmela Cervantes, a faculty-researcher at the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture, is another feather added to the cap of the region’s organic farming initiative.

The farm certified by the Organic Certification Center of the Philippines is now a popular destination of people who want to learn and adopt organic farm systems serving as a laboratory cum training farm showcasing sustainable agriculture through natural farming technologies.

The farm keeps a collection of 20 traditional rice cultivars which is being mass-produced and using modern rice varieties like RC 18 and NSIC 222 which they found to perform well under organic production systems that give them average yield of 100 cavans of palay per hectare.

It also produces organic seeds which are made available other organic rice farmers in the province. (PNA) FPV/FGS/DOC/CBD