Bicol DA issues farming guide

Pili, Camarines Sur, (PNA) - The Regional Field Unit for Bicol of the Department of Agriculture (DA) based here is now maintaining an Internet domain that provides seasonal climate outlook to guide farmers in the region in their farming activities.

The Web page entitled Seasonal Climate Outlook and Advisory, which can be reached through the agency's home page, is a special project that intends to keep agricultural stakeholders in the region guided on the seasonal weather situation for more productivity, DA regional executive director Abelardo Bragas said over the weekend.

It features, among others, weather systems to affect Bicol.

It said that for April to June, it would be northeast and southeast monsoons, easterly wind, ridge of high-pressure area, low-pressure area, above normal temperature and possibility of three to six tropical cyclones to enter or develop within the Philippine Area of Responsibility.

Its Climate Outlook Summary says that El Niño-Southern Oscillation neutral conditions are likely to prevail in April up to June, leaning towards cool side; generally above normal rainfall in April, May and June; continuing shift of wind from northeast to east to the first half of the southwest monsoon; prevalence of cold fronts propagating eastward; slightly warmer than average temperature in April; and, onset of rainy season on the last week of May up to early June.

On impact outlooks that it carries, the advisory says that rainfall in April, May and June would be above normal and evenly distributed across the region to favor crop cultivation in upland and lowland areas.

Under this outlook, it said, crops and livestock production might be affected by typhoons starting May although high moisture availability during the month will favor land preparation and crop establishment.

Above-normal rainfall during the peak-harvest season for rice and corn during the period may also cause high post-harvest losses but favorable to small and large ruminants since soil moisture will be available for pasture growth, it said.

The slightly warmer-than-average temperature, despite the above normal rainfall, on the other hand, might still affect rain-fed areas and reduce crop yield, according to the advisory.

Under these situations, the Web page recommends good practices options (GPOs) such as continuing crop cultivation and establishment to take advantage of high moisture availability from April to June.

For rice farms scheduled for harvest this April, it instructs farmers to, if possible, "use the nearest flat-bed dryers in your area instead of sun-drying."

It recommends both ratooning and early planting in May or June due to high moisture availability in lowland and irrigated areas and the integration of short-duration crops in upland's rain-fed areas.

During the season, farmers should also continue land preparation activities but should allocate seeds or seedlings for re-planting in case of typhoon occurrence in May and June, it recommends.

Other GPOs, the advisory said, are monitoring and evaluation of pest incidence in crops and livestock as required due to high temperature and relative humidity and, if possible, farmers should secure crop insurance, specifically in areas that are highly vulnerable to flooding this coming wet-season cropping.

It clarified that all climate forecast/information it carries are based on the Climate Outlook for April to June 2013, issued by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration last March 6, 2013.

Monthly updates on impacts, outlooks and recommended GPOs will be issued as information of new developments become available, it added.

Bragas said weather information and cropping advisories being carried by the Web page are important to farmers, especially that seasonal weather conditions in Bicol have become erratic due to climate change.

"While we do not expect most farmers to have access to Internet, we have tasked all our agricultural extension workers and farm technicians of local government units who are constantly in the field to relay the climate outlooks and advisories to the farmers," he said.

These government agricultural workers should also include it as among the topics of discussion with farmers during their regular meetings under the "Usapang Palay (Palay Talks)" project of the DA.

Usapang Palay is a barangay-to-barangay campaign being initiated by the DA to keep farmers and other farm stakeholders abreast of the latest developments in the field and to enhance their enthusiasm to learn the best farming practices.

Such activity is being conducted in all rice-producing areas of Bicol to disseminate technologies and provide farmers updates on government programs and projects for the sector.

It is an interactive activity focused on sharing of rice information and technology updates between the DA and agricultural extension workers and farmers concerned, in line with the Aquino administration's FoodStaples Self-Sufficiency Program, according to Bragas.